The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News http://www.pressherald.com Fri, 29 Apr 2016 20:09:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.3 Oxford Casino owner plans $25 million hotel expansion http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/oxford-casino-owner-plans-25-million-hotel-expansion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/oxford-casino-owner-plans-25-million-hotel-expansion/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:57:24 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/oxford-casino-owner-plans-25-million-hotel-expansion/ Casino developer Churchill Downs Inc. plans to build a hotel at Oxford Casino as part of a $25 million expansion, the company said Friday.

The attached hotel project includes expansion of the existing Oxford Casino facility and will feature more than 100 guest rooms, additional dining options, an expansion of the gaming floor and meeting and banquet space.

Construction of the hotel and banquet space represents the second time Louisville, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs has expanded the Oxford facility since purchasing the property in July 2013. The facility employs more than 400 people and is the largest employer in the town of Oxford.

The latest expansion will create 60 new full-time positions, along with an estimated 1,000 temporary construction jobs, the company said.

“This is tremendous news for Oxford Casino, the surrounding communities, our employees and our patrons from across the region,” Oxford Casino Vice President and General Manager Jack Sours said in a news release. “We’re anxious to begin construction and provide our guests with this exciting new option for their visit to Oxford.”

The hotel will connect to the town’s newly installed municipal sewer system, providing a significant source of revenue for the sewer project, according to Churchill Downs.

Construction of the hotel and casino expansion is expected to begin as early as June 2016 and be completed by the summer of 2017, it said.

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Biggest scientific instrument in the world brought down by tiny weasel http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/biggest-scientific-instrument-in-the-world-brought-down-by-tiny-weasel/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/biggest-scientific-instrument-in-the-world-brought-down-by-tiny-weasel/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:13:37 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/biggest-scientific-instrument-in-the-world-brought-down-by-tiny-weasel/ The Large Hadron Collider – the world’s biggest, most powerful particle accelerator – is going to be out of commission for a few days. Scientists are blaming a weasel.

No, they’re not using old-timey slang to accuse their fellow researchers of subterfuge. It was an actual weasel.

“The #LHC will be down for at least a week because a weasel chewed into a 66kV transformer near LHCb, causing an LHC-wide power cut. #CERN,” a Tweet from scientist Becky Douglas announced.

Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), told The Post in an email that the LHC had been put on standby mode because of “technical issues in the last 24 hours, including a power cut (likely due to the passage of a small wild animal on a 66 kV/18kV electrical transformer.)”

When pressed, Marsollier good naturedly identified the perp.

“I can confirm it was a weasel,” he wrote.

On a good, weasel-less day, the LHC is used to smash fast-moving particles into one another. The hope is that scientists will use these collisions to better understand the fundamentals of physics, and perhaps even discover unknown particles that help shape the laws of our universe.

But not this week.

Marsollier reports that technicians are hard at work to get the machine back online – and that these sort of power cut mishaps happen periodically, so it’s not a huge deal – but it might take a few days or weeks to get back to experimenting.

A post on the LHC group on Reddit has a collection of logbook recordings and meeting slides about the incident, as well as an alleged image of the rodent in question (nooooo don’t click it, don’t). Marsollier confirmed the identity of the pictured rodent in an email to The Post.

It’s a bad day for particle physics and a bad day for weasels – assuming this wasn’t the first attack in an anti-science rodent rebellion. It might not hurt to check in on your lab mice.

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Angus King co-sponsors bill to study problem of drug-affected babies http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/king-co-sponsors-bill-to-study-prevalence-costs-of-drug-affected-babies/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/king-co-sponsors-bill-to-study-prevalence-costs-of-drug-affected-babies/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:55:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/king-co-sponsors-bill-to-study-prevalence-costs-of-drug-affected-babies/ U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and two Senate colleagues, one Democrat and one Republican, introduced a bill Friday that would direct the federal government to examine the rapidly rising rate of children born to opiate-addicted mothers.

In Maine, the number of drug-affected babies has nearly doubled from 526 in 2010 to 995 in 2015, or 1 in 12 babies born in the state.

“The statistics are heartbreaking,” King said in a statement. “Prevention and treatment are key to curbing that, but when babies are born with (neonatal abstinence syndrome), we have got to ensure they have access to the best our health system has to offer – and that starts by understanding the obstacles that are getting in the way.”

The Nurturing and Supporting Healthy Babies Act, sponsored by King, Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would order a U.S. Government Accountability Office review to determine the prevalence, how many might be covered by Medicaid, the types of treatment available and the cost of those treatments.

Babies born drug-affected often require specialized care, which means longer hospital stays and increase costs – as much as five times the cost of treating other newborns, according to a recent study.

King and Capito also had introduced another bill in February to direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to create new guidelines for residential pediatric recovery centers that treat babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

This story will be updated.

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

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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Legislators approve pay raises for mental health workers, more money for jails http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/legislators-unanimously-override-veto-of-added-maine-jail-funding/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/legislators-unanimously-override-veto-of-added-maine-jail-funding/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:47:53 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/legislators-unanimously-override-veto-of-added-maine-jail-funding/ AUGUSTA — Maine legislators overrode Gov. Paul LePage’s vetoes of pay raises for mental health workers and an additional $2.4 million in funding for the state’s county jails Friday.

The money for the jails is expected to make up the difference between the $12.2 million the state already approved for this year and next and the $14.6 million the state’s sheriffs say is needed.

Both the House and Senate voted in favor of the override.

Funding for the county jails has been a point of concern since the state unified jail system, established in 2007, capped budget levels for county jails. Additional funding is supposed to come from the state but in many cases has only produced funding shortfalls for the jails.

Last July, counties resumed control of the jails and the state eliminated the state Board of Corrections. At the same time the state approved $12.2 million in spending for the county jails, but officials said it still was not enough to cover the estimated $14.6 million in jail expenditures.

In his veto letter to the Legislature April 22, Gov. Paul LePage said that “if the counties are responsible for operating the jails, then the counties should also be responsible for paying the costs of the jails.”

MORE PAY FOR MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS

The Legislature also overrode LePage’s veto of a plan to boost pay for workers at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital in Bangor, The Associated Press reports.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, a Republican from Augusta, will increase wages by $2 to $4 an hour for mental health workers, nurses, psychologists and other direct care staff.

In vetoing the bill, LePage cited a survey indicating a wage increase was “either unnecessary or too high.” He also said negative publicity is a bigger barrier than wages to retaining workers.

CLEAN ELECTION FUNDING

A proposal to replenish the Clean Elections program is dead. The House failed to muster enough votes to override the veto of $500,000 for the fund.

 

This story will be updated.

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Man charged with murdering Maine woman in Florida during sex http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/arrest-made-in-connection-with-maine-womans-death/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/arrest-made-in-connection-with-maine-womans-death/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:30:43 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/arrest-made-in-connection-with-maine-womans-death/ A Florida man has been charged with murdering a Maine woman while they engaged in sexual intercouse and then continuing to have sex with her dead body.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a news conference Friday afternoon that Timothy Frederick Johnson, 25, is accused of killing Judith Therianos, 52, of Alfred sometime this month.

Therianos had been traveling in the Tampa Bay area visiting friends when she disappeared. She had not been seen since March 14. Her decomposed body was found by a woman looking for bottles and cans in a wooded area off Highway 19 in New Port Richey on April 7.

On Friday, local police said Johnson killed the woman while they were having sex. They believe that Therianos wanted him to stop at one point and that’s when he killed her. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma, according to the state medical examiner’s office, which also determined that she was sexually assaulted after her death.

Johnson is being held at the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center.

Family members in Maine, who said Therianos was “an amazing woman with a heart of gold,” had suspected foul play all along.

“We are still waiting for answers,” her sister, Jennifer Scammon, told the Press Herald this month. “Her family would like closure.”

Therianos grew up in Maine and graduated from Massabesic High School in Waterboro in 1981.

She drove with a friend, Glenda Cook, from Maine to Florida in February. The two planned to visit with and care for an ailing friend. When Cook returned home, Therianos stayed behind to visit other friends in the area but told family members she would be home by Easter.

Friends and family had been concerned about Therianos, who had been spending time with an older man named Charlie prior to her disappearance. Friends also had seen the woman with a black eye, although she said it was from a fall.

Cook said Friday that she was still waiting for more answers but she didn’t know Johnson and didn’t think Therianos would have known him either.

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

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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Hiram man injured in late-night crash http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/hiram-man-injured-in-late-night-crash/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/hiram-man-injured-in-late-night-crash/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:17:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/hiram-man-injured-in-late-night-crash/ A Hiram man was seriously injured in a car crash that was likely caused by speed, alcohol and drugs, according to the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

Police say Shane Irish, 21, was injured in the crash late Thursday night and taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. The crash occurred on Pequawket Trail near the Hiram-Baldwin town line.

The crash was reported to police around 10:30 p.m. Thursday by a passing motorist who noticed Irish’s crashed vehicle.

Police say Irish was traveling northbound on Pequawket Trail, crossed the center line, went down and embankment and struck a tree. He was extricated from the car by members of the Hiram and Baldwin Fire Department.

Evidence at the scene suggests speed, alcohol and drugs contributed to the crash, according to police.

Pequawket Trail was closed for two hours after the crash was reported. The crash remains under investigation.

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Cape Elizabeth to restart school superintendent search http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/cape-elizabeth-to-restart-school-superintendent-search/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/cape-elizabeth-to-restart-school-superintendent-search/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:15:21 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/cape-elizabeth-to-restart-school-superintendent-search/ CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board announced plans Friday to resume its search for a new superintendent after the second and last finalist for the job withdrew from consideration.

Craig King, superintendent of Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10, which serves Rumford and 11 other communities, withdrew his candidacy after he toured the town’s schools on Wednesday and the board met in executive session that night.

The board has already begun the process of hiring an interim superintendent to serve during the 2016-17 school year and will resume its search for a permanent superintendent next winter, Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres said in an email to the school community.

“It is not unusual for a school department to need more than one cycle of the search process to find a good fit,” Scifres said. “The School Board takes its charge of finding the right match for our district very seriously and is committed to hiring the best person it can to lead Cape Elizabeth schools.”

The school board is seeking a replacement for Meredith Nadeau, who has been superintendent for five years and will leave this summer to become superintendent of the elementary and junior-senior high schools in Newmarket, New Hampshire.

The position oversees the education of 1,622 students in three town schools – elementary, middle and high – and a $23.5 million annual budget.

The other finalist for the job was Steven Bailey, superintendent of the Central Lincoln County School System, Alternative Organizational Structure 93, which is based in Damariscotta.

Bailey withdrew from consideration for the Cape Elizabeth post in mid-April. He decided to stay at AOS 93 after the school board there voted to give him 10 days of compensatory time for the long hours he works, according to the Lincoln County News.

King, who also was one of three finalists for the now-filled superintendent’s job in Scarborough, previously served as principal of Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham and worked as a principal and an assistant principal in Mississippi.

King did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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Human errors blamed in U.S. attack on Afghan hospital http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/human-errors-blamed-in-u-s-attack-on-afghan-hospital/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/human-errors-blamed-in-u-s-attack-on-afghan-hospital/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:00:25 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/human-errors-blamed-in-u-s-attack-on-afghan-hospital/ WASHINGTON – A U.S. aerial gunship attack on a hospital in Afghanistan that killed 42 people occurred because of human errors, process mistakes and equipment failures, and none of the aircrew knew they were striking a trauma center, a top U.S. general said Friday.

“This was an extreme situation” complicated by combat fatigue among U.S. special operations forces, Gen. Joseph Votel told a Pentagon news conference. Votel headed U.S. Special Operations Command at the time of the tragic attack last fall. In March he took over U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan.

Votel said investigators concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict. However, they also determined that these failures did not amount to a war crime, he said.

“The label ‘war crimes’ is typically reserved for intentional acts – intentional targeting (of) civilians or intentionally targeting protected objects or locations,” Votel said. “Again, the investigation found that the incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors, process errors and equipment failures, and that none of the personnel knew they were striking a hospital.”

Votel expressed “deepest condolences” to those injured and to the families of those killed.

NO CRIMINAL CHARGES FILED

No criminal charges have been leveled against U.S. military personnel for mistakes that resulted in the Oct. 3, 2015, attack on the civilian hospital in Afghanistan operated by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. The group has called the attack a war crime and demanded an independent investigation.

Votel said that the trauma center was on a U.S. military no-strike list but that the gunship crew didn’t have access to the list because it launched its mission on short notice and as a result did not have the data loaded into its onboard systems. He said the military has sought to avoid similar mistakes in the future by requiring that such data be pre-loaded into aircraft.

Central Command released a redacted version of the full investigation report on Friday, including details about what exactly led a U.S. Air Force special operations AC-130 gunship to bomb the hospital and how those mistakes were made.

“The investigation determined that all members of both the ground force and the AC-130 air crew were unaware that the aircraft was firing on a medical facility throughout the engagement,” Votel said. “The investigation ultimately concluded that this tragic incident was caused by a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures.”

Votel said 16 military members, including officers as well as enlisted, have been disciplined. He said none of their names will be released to protect the privacy of the individuals and in some cases because they are still assigned to sensitive or overseas positions.

GENERAL AMONG THOSE PUNISHED

According to one senior U.S. official, a two-star general was among about 16 disciplined. A number of those punished are U.S. special operations forces.

No one was sent to court-martial, officials said. However, in many cases a nonjudicial punishment, such as a letter of reprimand or suspension, can effectively end a military career. The official were not authorized to discuss the case by name and requested anonymity.

The U.S. airstrike in the northern city of Kunduz last October was carried out by one of the most lethal aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. Doctors Without Borders has called the attack “relentless and brutal.”

The Associated Press reported in March that more than a dozen U.S. military personnel had been disciplined in connection with the bombing, and that the punishments were all largely administrative.

The crew of the AC-130, which is armed with side-firing cannons and guns, had been dispatched to hit a Taliban command center in a building 450 yards from the hospital, the U.S. military said in November. Hampered by problems with their targeting sensors, the crew relied on a physical description that led them to begin firing at the hospital even though they saw no hostile activity there.

CHANCES MISSED TO PREVENT MISTAKE

Officials have said the attack was caused by human error, and that many chances to prevent the attack on the wrong target were missed.

A separate U.S. report on the incident, obtained last fall by the AP, said the AC-130 aircraft fired 211 shells at the hospital compound over 29 minutes before commanders realized the mistake and ordered a halt. Doctors Without Borders officials contacted coalition military personnel during the attack to say the hospital was “being ‘bombed’ from the air,” and the word finally was relayed to the AC-130 crew, the report said.

The attack came as U.S. military advisers were helping Afghan forces retake Kunduz, which had fallen to the Taliban on Sept. 28. It was the first major city to fall since the Taliban were expelled from Kabul in 2001.

Afghan officials claimed the hospital had been overrun by the Taliban, but no evidence of that has surfaced. The hospital was destroyed and Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym, MSF, ceased operations in Kunduz.

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Portland narrows superintendent search to 2 finalists http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/portland-narrows-superintendent-search-to-two-finalists/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/portland-narrows-superintendent-search-to-two-finalists/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:59:01 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/portland-narrows-superintendent-search-to-two-finalists/ The Portland School District has selected two finalists for the position of superintendent and will announce their names Monday, when the first of two forums will be held to introduce the candidates to the public.

The first forum will be held from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Monday in Room 200 of Casco Bay High School, the district announced in a posting on its website. A forum with the other finalist will be held from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of King Middle School. Participants will have a chance to ask questions of the candidates and complete a feedback form that will go to the school board.

In addition to the forums, the finalists will visit an elementary, middle and high school. Each candidate will be interviewed by the board, top administrators, a group of stakeholders, and a group of high school students. Finalists will also present a brief entry plan as a presentation to the school board.

The school board plans to choose a superintendent by mid-May. The start date for the position is July 1. Jeanne Crocker has been serving as interim superintendent, at an annual salary of $138,875, since August. The board elevated her from her position as director of school management after the previous superintendent, Emmanuel Caulk, resigned to take a superintendent’s post in Lexington, Kentucky.

BWP & Associates, a national consulting firm, assisted with Portland’s superintendent search, which resulted in 41 applications. The initial field was narrowed to a group of six semi-finalists.

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Indiana governor backs Ted Cruz http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/indiana-governor-to-support-ted-cruz-sources-say/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/indiana-governor-to-support-ted-cruz-sources-say/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:44:52 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/indiana-governor-to-support-ted-cruz-sources-say/ INDIANAPOLIS – In a setback for Donald Trump, Indiana’s governor endorsed the front-runner’s chief rival, Ted Cruz, on Friday, just days before the state’s critical Republican primary contest.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made his support for the Texas senator official during an afternoon radio interview, casting Cruz as “a principled conservative.”

“The man has shown the courage of his convictions,” Pence said, citing Cruz’s fight against government spending and the federal health care law, and his “strong and unwavering stand for the sanctity of life.”

Pence, who faces his own re-election test this fall, also praised Trump, who he said “has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans.” “I’m grateful for his voice in the national debate,” he said.

“I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary,” Pence added.

The Indiana governor’s backing gives Cruz a desperately needed boost in his fight to block Trump from claiming the delegate majority before the GOP’s national convention in July. A Trump win in Indiana on Tuesday would all but ensure he becomes the presumptive nominee.

Trump swept all five Northeastern primary elections earlier in the week and enjoys a massive delegate advantage over his Republican rivals. Cruz has been mathematically eliminated from earning the 1,237 delegate majority, but insists he can block Trump from the majority as well, as the 2016 contest shifts to “friendlier terrain” in the West and Midwest. The Texas senator declared he is “all in” on Indiana.

Cruz said earlier Friday he would “enthusiastically welcome” Pence’s support.

“The country is depending on Indiana to bring some sober common sense,” Cruz told reporters in Indianapolis, “instead of going down a rash course of action that is endangering this country.”

“We’re barnstorming the state,” he added after the first of four scheduled Indiana appearances on Friday.

Pence, who is seeking his second term this fall, had been under enormous pressure from pro- and anti-Trump factions. Although he is more closely aligned with Cruz, he risks voter backlash in the fall if Tuesday’s primary contest shows Indiana is filled with Trump voters.

Trump said this week that he had met the governor and asked for his backing.

“I don’t think he’ll endorse anybody, actually – and he may endorse us,” Trump told CNN on Wednesday. “I don’t know. He’s a great guy. He’s become – you know, he’s done a very, very good job as governor and he’s a great guy. I don’t know if we’ll get his endorsement. I don’t know.”

Trump added that he didn’t think Pence would endorse Cruz.

Yet Cruz and conservatives who support him have pressed Pence from the other direction.

“Every day he sits on the sidelines is another day in which he could have made a difference,” Republican columnist Erick Erickson wrote Thursday on the website The Resurgent. “He has not used his influence in the conservative movement to rally against Trump.”

Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.

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Lawmakers uphold LePage veto, killing bill to boost solar energy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/lepage-veto-of-solar-bill-still-stands-after-house-vote-for-now/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/lepage-veto-of-solar-bill-still-stands-after-house-vote-for-now/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:32:23 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/lepage-veto-of-solar-bill-still-stands-after-house-vote-for-now/ AUGUSTA –– House lawmakers upheld Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a closely watched solar energy bill Friday in a blow to supporters who argued the measure would boost the industry and create jobs.

The House actually voted twice on the bill but, despite a heavy State House presence of solar users and industry representatives, the outcome did not change. In the end, the 93-50 vote in the House was a few votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto from LePage, a frequent critic of Maine’s renewable energy policies.

Rep. Sara Gideon, a Freeport Democrat and assistant House majority leader, said afterward that the majority of House Republicans had “turned their backs on Maine workers, Maine’s homegrown solar industry and new investment for Maine.”

“An amazing collaborative effort created the opportunity to grow good-paying jobs of the future and modernize our economy,” Gideon said afterward. “I thank the 12 Republicans who refused to throw that all away and chose good policy over partisan politics.”

The solar bill had, indeed, become a partisan sticking point in recent weeks as the governor led the charge against a bill that he predicted would increase electricity rates. LePage met earlier this week with Gideon and other supporters as the two sides attempted to find compromise but to no avail.

In his veto letter, LePage said the bill would increase the costs of doing business in Maine as well as for homes and businesses that cannot afford solar panels “by tens of millions of dollars – picking winners and losers in Maine’s energy mix.”

“I tried to negotiate in good faith with Democrats to reach a compromise that would not add to the burden of ratepayers,” LePage wrote. “I requested that the bill include all renewables, return all renewable energy credits (RECs) to ratepayers and have a cap on the price we pay in long-term contracts. We could not reach an agreement. They are not serious about reducing the price of energy for Maine families or job creators.”

The bill, L.D. 1649, aimed to add 196 megawatts of solar energy to the state’s energy portfolio over the next four years, down from the 248 megawatts contained in the original version. Maine has roughly 20 megawatts of installed solar energy today.

The bill also would tweak the controversial “net metering” system in which utility companies provide a one-to-one credit to solar customers for solar power they generate and feed back into the grid. The bill’s failure means the Maine Public Utilities Commission will likely decide the fate of Maine’s net metering policies.

Supporters have been waging an intense, last-minute push to save a bill that they say is critical to providing a boost to Maine’s solar industry and creating up to 650 good-paying jobs. But they also warned that defeating the bill would likely eliminate some of the estimated 300 solar energy jobs already in Maine.

But opponents said the bill would eventually result in higher energy cost for all ratepayers in order to benefit the few people who install solar energy systems.

“When you look at the people, generally speaking, who are putting in and installing solar, it is the people who have the financial means to do that,” said Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, the House minority leader. Fredette said that while he supports the solar industry, he opposes “socializing the costs.”

This story will be updated.

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Idexx Laboratories revenue up 9 percent in the first quarter http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/idexx-laboratories-revenue-up-9-percent-in-the-first-quarter/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/idexx-laboratories-revenue-up-9-percent-in-the-first-quarter/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 15:39:33 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/idexx-laboratories-revenue-up-9-percent-in-the-first-quarter/ Idexx Laboratories Inc. boosted its first-quarter revenue to $417.6 million, up 9 percent from a year earlier, the company reported Friday.

Still, the negative impact of changes in foreign currency exchange rates cut into the Westbrook-based veterinary technology firm’s earnings per share, which were up 4 percent from the first quarter of 2015, the company said.

Idexx reported net income of $46 million, or 51 cents a share, for the quarter, compared with $46.6 million, or 49 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2015. Idexx had nearly 5 million fewer outstanding shares in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, which boosted the earnings attributed to each share.

Another factor that helped increase earnings per share was savings from a federal research and development tax credit, which benefited the current but not the prior year’s first quarter, the company said.

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Fairchild deal with rival ON Semiconductor delayed http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fairchild-deal-with-rival-on-semiconductor-delayed/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fairchild-deal-with-rival-on-semiconductor-delayed/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 15:39:10 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fairchild-deal-with-rival-on-semiconductor-delayed/ The deadline for a proposed merger between Phoenix-based ON Semiconductor and Fairchild Semiconductor has been extended into May.

ON Semiconductor offered to buy San Jose-based Fairchild for $2.4 billion in November, but the deal is still seeking regulatory approval. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the parties on Friday requested an extension of the offer to May 12.

Fairchild operates a production facility in South Portland that employs more than 500 workers. The plant on Western Avenue is part of Fairchild’s Analog Power Signal and Solutions Division, and makes analog switches, USB, converters and other building blocks of digital circuitry. The company sells components used in cars, smartphones, appliances and other consumer products. It reported revenue of $1.37 billion in 2015.

Betsy Van Hees, a semiconductor analyst for Wedbush Securities, said these types of delays are not unusual in a merger where there are multiple regulatory hurdles to clear.

The deal was further complicated when a Chinese investment group made a bid for Fairchild, offering $21.70 per share, which topped ON’s offer of $20 per share. In February, Fairchild management declined the offer from China Resources Microelectronics Ltd. and Hua Capital Management Co. without specifying why, but analysts surmised it was because the deal wouldn’t receive U.S. regulators’ blessing.

Van Hees said there’s been a tremendous amount of movement in the worldwide semiconductor market as companies acquire one another rather than grow organically. Dealogic, a financial analysis firm, identified $104 billion in chip company deals in 2015 alone, compared with $38 billion in 2014.

“There’s been a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the sector,” Van Hees said, “and China wants to be part of that.”

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SUV crashes into Mass. day care center, pinning toddler underneath http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/suv-crashes-into-mass-day-care-center-pinning-toddler-underneath/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/suv-crashes-into-mass-day-care-center-pinning-toddler-underneath/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 15:21:53 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/suv-crashes-into-mass-day-care-center-pinning-toddler-underneath/ BILLERICA, Mass. — Massachusetts police say a driver having a medical episode struck several cars and crashed through the wall of a day care center, pinning a toddler beneath the vehicle.

Billerica Deputy Police Chief Roy Frost says an SUV driven by a 38-year-old Billerica woman hit the cars, jumped a curb and struck a fence around 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

He says it then crashed into A Brighter Rainbow Learning Center, landing in the main child care area. Four children were inside and at least three others were in an outside play area.

A 2-year-old boy was taken to the hospital. Frost says the child’s injuries aren’t life threatening. Witnesses say he had a gash on his head. Two other children were treated at the scene.

The driver also was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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Secondhand stores taking root in Winthrop’s empty spaces http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/secondhand-stores-find-new-use-for-winthrops-empty-storefronts/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/secondhand-stores-find-new-use-for-winthrops-empty-storefronts/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:52:53 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/secondhand-stores-find-new-use-for-winthrops-empty-storefronts/ WINTHROP — When Darlene Steele was young and her foster parents couldn’t afford accessories for her Barbie doll, she took wooden fruit boxes and made them into doll houses.

Last winter, when Steele was looking for a new space to house her business, she and her husband, Matt Steele, bought an old doctor’s office at 220 Main St. For the last four months, Steele has been doing to that office what she did to those fruit boxes years ago: renovating it and putting it to a new purpose. The space once belonged to family doctor Stanley Painter.

Steele sells secondhand and consignment goods, as well as decorations and housewares that she herself has crafted from used items: aprons cut out of men’s dress shirts, license plates shaped into dustpans, “pet condos” made from old television sets.

“I’ve always been artistic, and I grew up poor,” Steele said. “So I’ve always been the make-do kind of gal.”

Steele’s work on the building and property is far from complete — a lavender-colored excavator was recently doing work on her driveway, and paint was still drying on her floor — but on Saturday, she will open Main Street Mercantile for the first time. It will be a size up from the store she used to run on Depot Street.

Main Street Mercantile is just the latest in a wave of secondhand businesses that have relocated to downtown spaces that once served other purposes.

Also on Saturday, Cindy Gervais will be holding a grand opening at the new location of Vintage Collectibles & Indoor Market, a business she started last year and more recently decided to move into the town’s old post office at 129 Main St. Gervais had been in the building next door, but wanted more space.

And last April, Ann Nault moved her two-year old thrift store, Shoppers Basement Unlimited, into 5 Union St., a space that once served as a bowling alley, movie theater, car dealership and karate studio — though not all at once.

“It’s got some pretty cool history,” Nault said of her new digs.

The new secondhand businesses join more established ones such as Becky’s Second Time Around and Lakeside Antiques and Collectibles.

That means more competition, but each of the newer arrivals expressed some version of the view that “more is merrier.”

“We’re all different enough that we complement each other,” Steele said. “If I don’t have it, I’m going to tell them about the other spots.”

Steele said her inventory may appeal more to younger families getting started in a new home, but who appreciate quality products. She gets many of her items from estate sales, including old tools and appliances that are in good condition, furniture, some clothes and more decorative items. She also makes her own crafts — some of them rather quirky — and carries products on consignment from area artists.

Down the road, Gervais, at Vintage Collectibles, said she gets a wide range of customers, but that many seem to fall in the 30s and 40s age range. She carries vintage and antique furniture, kitchenware, glassware, artwork and decorations. Much of it she gets from auctions. She also rents out room to other vendors and holds workshops on painting old furniture.

Shoppers Basement Unlimited is more of a thrift store, according to Nault, who also gets her stuff at auctions and rents out space to vendors. She carries clothes, books, knives and other items. She said the low prices are probably what sets her business apart.

Like Steele, both Nault and Gervais welcomed the company. According to Nault, the more secondhand businesses that are here, the more shoppers may be drawn to Winthrop, knowing that they’ll have options.

While there have been a handful of secondhand stores in Winthrop ever since Sarah Fuller moved here 10 years ago, she also supports the new crop.

“It’s always good to have businesses locating in our downtown area,” said Fuller, president of the Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce board and chairwoman of the Town Council. “I think they serve a really critical part of the market. I certainly welcome them and hope that they’re successful.”

At the same time, Fuller said, she would like there to be fewer empty storefronts around town and hopes a larger variety of businesses can start here in the coming years. Some restaurants have come to town recently, but Fuller said a greater mix of retail, art, dining and activities will be needed, particularly with the closure of Apple Valley Books last summer.

To that end, the town recently formed a committee to support local businesses and attract newer ones.

“You can’t be everything to everyone, but you want to have enough that you can draw people from around the region,” Fuller said.

Indeed, according to Gervais, for many younger people, and even a few older people, quality antiques will never rival the new, cheap and easy-to-transport furniture available at stores such as Ikea — and unavailable in small towns like Winthrop.

“You’re going to get those people who just don’t like this kind of stuff,” she said. “But I think there’s a market out there for both.”

Besides re-purposing empty storefronts, there’s another, less obvious strength to the fledgling businesses that have been taking shape in Winthrop, according to Gervais: Many are run by women.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

ceichacker@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @ceichacker

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Biden calls for global commitment to cancer at Vatican conference http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/biden-calls-for-global-commitment-to-cancer-at-vatican-conference/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/biden-calls-for-global-commitment-to-cancer-at-vatican-conference/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:43:45 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/biden-calls-for-global-commitment-to-cancer-at-vatican-conference/ VATICAN CITY — Saying cancer is a scourge with no boundaries, Vice President Joe Biden came to the Vatican on Friday to call for a global commitment to fund cancer research that benefits everyone, not just the “privileged and powerful.”

Biden, who lost a son to cancer last year, used his appearance at a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine to urge philanthropists, corporations and governments to increase funding and information-sharing in a bid to “end cancer as we know it.” He said the world is on the cusp of unprecedented breakthroughs but said the world still has not done enough.

“Cancer is a constant emergency,” the vice president said. “Cancer’s not a national problem, it’s an international problem. It’s a human problem. It affects all races, all religions.”

Pope Francis spoke directly after Biden — a particular treat for the Catholic vice president, Biden’s aides said. With light streaming through stained glass into an ornate auditorium in Vatican City, the pope called for ensuring all have access to cancer care, stressing the need to combat a system that prioritizes profits over human life.

“Research, whether in academia and industry, requires unwavering attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human life and the dignity of the person,” the pope said.

Before taking the stage, the pope greeted Biden privately in a room backstage, where the two exchanged small tokens, the White House said. The two were also seen smiling and chatting together as they greeted conference attendees after their speeches, joined by the vice president’s surviving son, Hunter Biden, and son-in-law Howard Krein, a physician who’s been involved in Biden’s cancer push.

The pope’s focus on helping the less fortunate and the health of the planet have been welcomed by Biden and President Barack Obama, who have made common cause with the pontiff on climate change, rapprochement with Cuba and the refugee crisis.

Last year, Biden’s eldest son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died from brain cancer after his family’s hopes of a last-minute medical breakthrough fell short. Months later, his father declared a “moonshot” to cure cancer when he announced he wouldn’t run for president.

Since then, Joe Biden has launched a task force with Obama’s blessing and the White House asked Congress for $1 billion over two budget years for research. Only a fraction has so far been approved.

While at the Vatican, Biden met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, at the gold-adorned Treaty Room of the Apostolic Palace. Then he left Vatican City for Palazzo Chigi, the Italian premier office in Rome, where a military band and honor guard greeted Biden and Premier Matteo Renzi by playing the American and Italian national anthems.

The two held a private meeting before Biden was to return to Washington.

The vice president traveled here from Iraq, where he paid a surprise visit Thursday to meet with Iraqi leaders about their political crisis and the campaign against the Islamic State group.

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A mostly dry and fairly sunny weekend, though clouds arrive Sunday http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/mainly-dry-fairly-sunny-weekend-though-clouds-arrive-sunday/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/mainly-dry-fairly-sunny-weekend-though-clouds-arrive-sunday/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:01:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=858158 As the weather is warming up, I am starting a weekly column tailored to weather for outdoor activities. Many of you spend at least some time outside on the weekends, and whether it’s knowing the best time for a run or if your beach trip is going to be rained on, this rundown is all you’ll need.

The first thing to know is that Saturday is going to be a nicer day than Sunday. I am a bit concerned that showers will move in for Sunday from mid-morning onward as the pattern turns a bit wetter for next week. Sunrise is around 6 a.m. and sunset is just about 7:45 p.m., leaving a lot of daylight.

Hiking, biking, and running

This weekend will at least start with dry weather and make any of these activities a pleasure.

If you are headed to the mountains, it will be cool with highs at the higher elevations (over 4,000 feet) in the low- to mid-40s. Campers should bring warm gear for cold mornings.

On Sunday, clouds will increase and a few rain showers are possible, especially late in the afternoon across York and southern Cumberland counties. There won’t be any wind to contend with on Saturday. Sunday could have a slight breeze.

Beaching and boating

York to Rockland: Water temperatures are in the low- to mid-40s and with chilly air present all weekend. It’s not likely you’ll be swimming. However, you might be taking the boat out for the first run of the season. Tides are high around 6:00 in the morning and evening. Consult your local tide chart for specifics.

From the Belfast to Easport: Water temperatures are still cold in the upper 30s to lower 40s. Winds will be light all weekend from the northeast and east, seas only around 2 feet.

Soccer, softball, baseball, golf, and other outdoor games

Clear skies and cool readings at night mean there will some dew on the grass Saturday morning. I don’t expect any frost delays along the coast, but if you have an early tee time on inland golf courses, there could be frost issues. Saturday features a lot of sunshine, but there may be some increase in clouds later in the day; even so, be sure to wear sunscreen.

Saturday Morning Lows

On Sunday morning, there may be also some dew on the grass, although it won’t be as chilly to start to the day. Expect temperatures to be in the 40s and with clouds on the increase, it won’t warm up very much. Remember: Even on cloudy days, lots of UV light gets through the clouds and you can still get sunburned. You can probably get a round of golf in on Sunday as any rain should arrive late.

Gardening

With rain expected Sunday evening and Monday, this is a good weekend to put down some grass seed and organic, slow-release fertilizers. You can also still move some trees, shrubs, and perennials. (Remember if you are moving plants to still give them a good drink of water, even with the rain expected.) High temperatures will be in the upper 50s at the coast and lower 60s inland on Saturday but will remain in the 40s to lower 50s Sunday. The sun can burn houseplants that you’re moving outside so put them in the shade for a few days before moving them into full sunshine.

Highs Saturday

General errands

Roads will be dry through most of Sunday, but there is a chance of showers for the late afternoon on Sunday. Your car can heat up very fast when parked in the sun—don’t leave pets or, of course, kids in the car. The sun’s intensity this weekend is similar to that of the second week of August.

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Berwick police investigating armed home invasion http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/berwick-police-investigating-armed-home-invasion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/berwick-police-investigating-armed-home-invasion/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:34:17 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/berwick-police-investigating-armed-home-invasion/ Berwick police are investigating an armed home invasion they believe is drug related.

Police were called to 12 Lyman St. shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday after two men allegedly entered the home, displayed a handgun and threatened two residents.

“We believe this was a targeted event that was drug related,” said Capt. Jerry Locke. “We believe they knew each other, though (the residents) are not being cooperative at this point.”

No one was injured during the incident.

Locke said the two male suspects entered the home and confronted a man who lives there. As the man was threatened, his father came into the room to intervene, according to police.

A juvenile daughter who was in a bedroom heard yelling and called police. She was taken from the scene and stayed somewhere else for the night, according to police.

The suspects were described as a white man and a black man who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. They left the scene in a black Jeep, possibly a Grand Cherokee model.

Locke said police have been called to the home before, but “nothing to this level” has been reported at the house.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police at 698-1136.

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Vandals carve graffiti on famous arch at Arches National Park in Utah http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/vandals-carve-graffiti-on-famous-arch-at-arches-national-park-in-utah/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/vandals-carve-graffiti-on-famous-arch-at-arches-national-park-in-utah/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:30:50 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/vandals-carve-graffiti-on-famous-arch-at-arches-national-park-in-utah/ SALT LAKE CITY — Rangers at Utah’s Arches National Park were investigating large graffiti Thursday that was carved so deeply into a famous red rock arch that it might be impossible to erase, officials said.

The carvings discovered earlier this month measure about 4 feet across and 3 feet high, park Superintendent Kate Cannon said.

The vandalism is part of a “tidal wave of graffiti” at Arches and other national parks in recent years, she said.

Two years ago, at least eight national parks in the West began the delicate task of cleaning up graffiti-like paintings left on famous, picturesque landscapes. The damage was discovered after images were shared on social media.

The Arches rock formation, commonly known as Frame Arch, is off a popular hiking trail where visitors can look through it and view the park’s iconic, stand-alone Delicate Arch.

Cannon said the graffiti was etched so deeply that it might have taken at least an hour for someone to carve.

She said park workers can try to reduce the carving’s visibility by grinding down the rock around it, but that causes further damage to the surface. She said they could also try to fill in the etchings with some kind of material that blends in, but it’s unclear if that would be a permanent or unnoticeable treatment.

Defacing surfaces in the park is illegal and anyone caught can face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Social media seems to be a driver of increased vandalism, but Cannon said graffiti generally has become inexplicably popular among visitors.

“It is really overwhelming,” she said.

Officials hope public outrage and vigilance can ease the problem.

“We take great pains to be out in the park and around where people are,” Cannon said of park ranger patrols. “Unfortunately, we can’t be everywhere all the time.”

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U.S. consumer spending rose very slightly in March http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/u-s-consumer-spending-rose-very-slightly-in-march/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/u-s-consumer-spending-rose-very-slightly-in-march/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:56:30 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/u-s-consumer-spending-rose-very-slightly-in-march/ WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers boosted their spending by a tiny amount in March as purchases of nondurable goods such as clothing offset a big fall in spending on autos and other long-lasting items.

The Commerce Department says spending edged up 0.1 percent last month after a 0.2 percent rise in February. Incomes rose a solid 0.4 percent.

Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, has been lackluster for the past four months. The weakness played a big role in the slowdown of overall growth in the first quarter when the economy expanded at a weak 0.5 percent rate. It was the slowest increase in two years.

Economists are hoping that continued solid job growth will spur stronger spending in coming months and help the economy grow at faster levels.

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Former Auschwitz guard, 94, says he is ashamed, apologizes in court http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/former-auschwitz-guard-94-says-he-is-ashamed-apologizes-in-court/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/former-auschwitz-guard-94-says-he-is-ashamed-apologizes-in-court/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:18:41 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/former-auschwitz-guard-94-says-he-is-ashamed-apologizes-in-court/ DETMOLD, Germany — A 94-year-old former SS sergeant has told a German court he is “ashamed” that he served as a guard in the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp and that he knew what was going on there but did nothing to stop it.

Reinhold Hanning told the Detmold state court Friday that he had never talked about his service in Auschwitz from January 1942 to June 1944, even to family, but wanted to use his trial as an opportunity to apologize.

“I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organization,” he said. “I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologize for my actions. I am very, very sorry.”

Hanning faces 170,000 counts of accessory to murder.

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Fights follow Trump rally in Southern California, about 20 arrested http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fights-follow-trump-rally-in-southern-california-about-20-arrested/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fights-follow-trump-rally-in-southern-california-about-20-arrested/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 11:49:54 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fights-follow-trump-rally-in-southern-california-about-20-arrested/ COSTA MESA, Calif. — Raucous protesters and supporters of Donald Trump took to the streets in California leading to some 20 arrests as the Republican presidential contender brought his campaign to conservative Orange County after sweeping the Northeast GOP primaries.

Dozens of protesters were mostly peaceful Thursday as Trump gave his speech inside the Pacific Amphitheatre. After the event, however, the demonstration grew rowdy late in the evening and spilled into the streets.

Approximately 20 people were arrested by Costa Mesa police, according to a tweet from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. One Trump supporter had his face bloodied in a scuffle as he tried to drive out of the arena. One man jumped on a police car, leaving its front and rear windows smashed and the top dented in and other protests sprayed graffiti on a police car and the venue’s marquee.

Dozens of cars – including those of Trump supporters trying to leave – were stuck in the street as several hundred demonstrators blocked the road, waved Mexican flags and posed for selfies.

Police in riot gear and on horseback pushed the crowd back and away from the venue. There were no major injuries and police did not use any force. The crowd began dispersing about three hours after the speech ended.

Earlier in the evening, a half-dozen anti-Trump protesters taunted those waiting to get into the venue. Trump supporters surrounded one man who waved a Mexican flag and shouted “Build that wall! Build that wall!” – a reference to Trump’s call to create a barrier between the United States and Mexico to stop illegal border crossings.

At one point, seven women wearing no shirts and Bernie Sanders stickers over their breasts entered the square outside the amphitheater. They said they were protesting Trump’s lack of engagement on issues of gender equality and women’s rights.

“I feel like he wants to make America great again, but certainly not for women, for the LBGTQ community or for the lower class,” said one of the women, Tiernan Hebron. “He has, like, done nothing to help with gender equality or women’s rights or reproductive rights or anything.”

Trump has drawn large crowds across the country as he has campaigned for the White House and some of his events have been marred by incidents both inside and outside these venues.

Earlier this week, a Trump rally in nearby Anaheim, California, turned contentious when his supporters and protesters clashed, leaving several people struck by pepper spray. Trump was not present.

Trump has drawn large crowds to most of his campaign events, and Thursday was no exception. The Pacific Amphitheatre was filled to its capacity of about 18,000 and many hundreds more were turned away.

Ly Kou, 47, of Ontario, said she likes Trump because he has vowed to put the country first.

“It’s obvious that America loves Trump,” said Kou, who is from Laos, as she pointed at the waiting throng. “This thing about him being racist? Look around the crowd.”

Trump was traveling from the rally site to the state’s Republican convention in Burlington in the San Francisco Bay area.

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North Korea sends another U.S. citizen to prison: Video http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/north-korea-sends-another-u-s-citizen-to-prison/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/north-korea-sends-another-u-s-citizen-to-prison/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 10:18:31 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/north-korea-sends-another-u-s-citizen-to-prison/ PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea on Friday sentenced a U.S. citizen of Korean heritage to 10 years in prison after convicting him of espionage and subversion, the second American it has put behind bars this year.

Kim Dong Chul had been detained in the North on suspicion of engaging in spying and stealing state secrets. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor after a brief trial in Pyongyang. North Korea’s Supreme Court found Kim guilty of crimes and espionage and subversion of under Articles 60 and 64 of the North’s criminal code.

Further details were not immediately available. When he was paraded before the media in Pyongyang last month, Kim said he had collaborated with and spied for South Korean intelligence authorities in a plot to bring down the North’s leadership and had tried to spread religion among North Koreans before his arrest in the city of Rason last October.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, the country’s main spy agency, has said Kim’s case wasn’t related to the organization in any way.

Kim’s sentencing comes on the heels of a 15-year sentence handed down on Otto Warmbier, an American university student who the North says was engaged in anti-state activities while visiting the country as a tourist earlier this year.

North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the U.S.-backed South Korean government to control the entire Korean Peninsula. Some foreigners previously arrested have read statements of guilt they later said were coerced.

Most of those who are sentenced to long prison terms are released before serving their full time.

In the past, North Korea has held out until senior U.S. officials or statesmen came to personally bail out detainees, all the way up to former President Bill Clinton, whose visit in 2009 secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. Both had crossed North Korea’s border from China illegally.

It took a visit in November 2014 by U.S. spy chief James Clapper to bring home Mathew Miller, also arrested after entering the country as a tourist, and Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who had been incarcerated since November 2012.

Jeffrey Fowle, a U.S. tourist detained for six months at about the same time as Miller, was released just before that and sent home on a U.S. government plane. Fowle left a Bible in a local club hoping a North Korean would find it, which is considered a criminal offense in North Korea.

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Fire destroys home on Milton Mills Road in Acton http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fire-destroys-home-on-milton-mills-road-in-acton/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fire-destroys-home-on-milton-mills-road-in-acton/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 04:25:42 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/fire-destroys-home-on-milton-mills-road-in-acton/ Fire destroyed a home Thursday night on Milton Mills Road in Acton, a York County town on the New Hampshire border.

A dispatcher for the Sanford Regional Communications Center said the fire was reported around 8:45 p.m. at 2628 Milton Mills Road.

WMTW-TV reported that the home was destroyed. There were no injuries.

Firefighters from several neighboring towns responded.

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Maine transportation officials to discuss Route 1 traffic plan’s impact on Wiscasset http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/maine-transportation-officials-to-discuss-route-1-traffic-plans-impact-on-wiscasset/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/maine-transportation-officials-to-discuss-route-1-traffic-plans-impact-on-wiscasset/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 04:18:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/maine-transportation-officials-to-discuss-route-1-traffic-plans-impact-on-wiscasset/ The Maine Department of Transportation will begin looking next week at some of the impacts a proposed traffic management plan for Route 1 in Wiscasset could have on the historic village.

Department officials will meet Monday night with members of the Wiscasset Historic Preservation Commission before hosting a public meeting on May 10 to discuss alternatives to building a bypass around Wiscasset.

The state is recommending two design options for making Route 1, which is Main Street in the downtown area, safer for pedestrians and for reducing traffic congestion, one of which would require acquiring a downtown building and tearing it down for parking.

“Whatever we decide to do downtown could have an adverse impact on historic structures,” said Gerry Audibert, a Regional Planner for the Department of Transportation.

Audibert said the design plan preferred by the department – known as option two – would involve the state buying a Water Street building owned by Coastal Enterprises Inc., demolishing the structure, and creating parking spaces for 54 vehicles.

That option would allow the state to remove on-street parking on Main Street, which the state says will allow traffic to move through the downtown more easily and make it safer for pedestrians trying to cross the street.

“The building we will be purchasing may or may not be considered historic,” he said. “It has been modified several times and is not original.”

The Maine Historic Preservation Commission says Wiscasset is one of three architecturally significant villages in Maine, along with Paris Hill and Castine, according to the town’s website. Five downtown buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1973, a significant portion of downtown Wiscasset became part of the National Register.

The meeting with the Wiscasset Historic Preservation Committee is at the town office Monday from 5-7 p.m.

State officials introduced their alternatives for building a bypass around Wiscasset at a public hearing in March. The May 10 meeting is a follow-up to that meeting as the transportation department moves closer to a construction start date in late 2017.

Audibert said the department plans to hold an open house at the Wiscasset Community Center Gymnasium, 242 Gardiner Road, from 3-5 p.m. on May 10. Those who attend will be able to meet individually with a representative from the agency.

The one-on-one sessions will be followed that night with a public meeting in the same location from 6-8 p.m. DOT representatives will present concept plans, listen to concerns, receive public comment and answer questions.

A bypass would have cost an estimated $115 million to build and would have forced 36 businesses and privately owned properties to be relocated.

There are now three traffic management options under consideration, including doing nothing, which the state says will worsen traffic congestion over time. Neither of the remaining two design options would cost more than $5 million each.

The state estimates that 17,000 vehicles a day use Main Street in Wiscasset, while the daily traffic count can increase to 22,000 vehicles a day in July and August, when the historic village can be the scene of long traffic backups.

Option two, which is favored by the transportation department, eliminates on-street parking between Water and Middle streets.

Option one would continue to allow on-street parking, but would result in Main Street becoming at least 6 feet narrower. Parked vehicles would have to back out into traffic, causing unnecessary delays.

The town of Wiscasset will hold a non-binding referendum in June to gauge public support for the three options under consideration, Audibert said. After the citizen referendum, Wiscasset’s Board of Selectmen would be asked to approve a design option by no later than June 30.

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Southwest, Delta tangle over airfares http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/southwest-delta-tangle-over-airfares/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/southwest-delta-tangle-over-airfares/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 04:12:23 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/southwest-delta-tangle-over-airfares/ DALLAS — No one should blame consumers for being perplexed by airfares – even the airlines themselves can seem confused at times.

Southwest Airlines caught rivals and Wall Street by surprise when it cut many U.S. fares by $5 each way.

The reduction this week applied to tickets bought within seven days of departure, which are usually favored more by last-minute business travelers than vacationers.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines was busy raising fares on domestic routes by $5 each way. And it did not match Southwest’s lower fares where the two carriers compete, a Delta spokesman said Thursday.

Spokesmen for American and United said that their airlines matched the Southwest reduction on routes where they overlap with Southwest but did not match Delta’s fare increase.

U.S. airlines often match one another on fare hikes, but increases can be rolled back if a key competitor doesn’t go along.

Even when they raise base fares, airlines often water down the effect by running frequent sales.

And airlines adjust fares constantly based on demand. That is why consumers often see one price one day and a different price the next day for the same flight.

Southwest’s decision to cut base fares was particularly eye-catching. JPMorgan analyst Jamie Baker, who tracks fares, said he could not recall such a “plain vanilla fare decrease by a large airline.”

Baker said he was “troubled” because the decrease unwound a fare increase from February.

Airline stocks have fallen in recent days over renewed concern that average fares, which began dipping early last year, will continue to drop throughout 2016. Some analysts blame the major airlines for matching prices set by so-called ultra-low-cost carriers or ULCCs such as Spirit and Frontier, which charge more fees on top of their no-frills service.

David Cush, the CEO of Virgin America, said that airlines might eventually stop pricing in lockstep. He said that airlines can charge higher fares if they offer a better flying experience than rivals or operate a nonstop against a competitor’s connecting itinerary – but are sometimes afraid to do so.

“The airlines believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have to compete on price even though they tend to have a product advantage to a lot of the ULCCs,” Cush said in an interview.

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Defense Secretary says he’s investigating whether his department misled Congress http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/defense-secretary-says-hes-investigating-whether-his-department-misled-congress/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/defense-secretary-says-hes-investigating-whether-his-department-misled-congress/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 03:01:42 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/defense-secretary-says-hes-investigating-whether-his-department-misled-congress/ WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday he’s investigating whether his department misled Congress in an effort to derail a contentious bill that would change the way the military handles allegations of sexual misconduct.

During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter assured the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that he’s directed his staff to examine how summaries of dozens of sexual assault cases were prepared by the military services.

An Associated Press investigation found inaccuracies and omissions in a number of the case summaries, which portrayed civilian district attorneys and local police forces as less willing than senior military officers to punish sex offenders. The documents supported the Pentagon’s position that stripping commanders of their power to decide which crimes go to trial – as Gillibrand’s legislation proposes – will mean fewer victims will get justice because there will be fewer prosecutions.

The summaries were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, which provided them to AP. Protect Our Defenders supports Gillibrand’s bill. In a separate report, the organization said the records “paint a categorically different picture from the one put forward by the Pentagon.”

Retired Col. Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders and the former chief Air Force prosecutor, said lawmakers shouldn’t wait “for the same agency that misled them to provide more unreliable information.”

Prior to Carter’s testimony, military representatives defended the accuracy of the information sent to Congress.

Gillibrand, referring to AP’s investigation and the Protect Our Defenders’ report, said she’s “very troubled” that Congress may have received misleading information “with the intent of defeating legislation that I and others on this committee introduced to address the scourge of sexual assault in the military.”

“So have you looked into these allegations yet?” she asked Carter. Carter said the inquiry is ongoing.

On Wednesday, Gillibrand and eight other senators sent Carter a letter requesting a meeting to discuss whether “the department deliberately misled members as they were debating an issue of policy and oversight.”

Previously, the more than 90 cases had been discussed publicly only as statistics that underpinned the Pentagon’s objections to Gillibrand’s bill, the Military Justice Improvement Act. The legislation aims to stop sex crimes by taking the authority to decide whether to prosecute a case away from the chain of command and giving it to seasoned, independent military lawyers.

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Report: ‘Stark’ gender pay gap begins early, has widened http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/report-stark-gender-pay-gap-begins-early-has-widened/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/report-stark-gender-pay-gap-begins-early-has-widened/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 02:11:17 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/report-stark-gender-pay-gap-begins-early-has-widened/ WASHINGTON — Pay disparities between men and women start earlier in their careers than widely assumed and have significantly widened for young workers in the past year, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.

Paychecks for young female college graduates are about 79 percent as large as those of their male peers, the think tank found – a big drop from 84 percent last year.

The jump follows a more gradual shift. In 2000, women ages 21 to 24 with college degrees earned on average 92 percent of their male counterparts’ wages, which was unchanged from 1990.

The growing gap was driven by an 8.1 percent increase in young college-educated men’s wages since 2000 and a 6.8 percent decrease in young college-educated women’s, adjusted for inflation.

Regardless of their education, young women typically earn less money than young men in the United States. Female high school graduates, ages 21 to 24, earn an average of 92 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.

Some have argued that the wage gap, at any stage of a woman’s life, starts with her choices. Women are more likely than men to scale back at work when they start a family, for instance. But the EPI data shows that the gender wage gap cracks open right after college graduation, well before decisions like maternity leave can affect women’s earnings.

The gender wage gap in the broader labor force has steadily declined since the 1980s.

“It is noteworthy that stark wage disparities between men and women occur even at this early part of their careers,” the researchers wrote, “when they have fairly comparable labor market experience.”

Young men with a college degree earn an average hourly wage of $20.94 right after graduation, according to the EPI figures, compared with the average hourly wage of $16.58 for women.

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Fight for transgender rights growing http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/fight-for-transgender-rights-growing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/fight-for-transgender-rights-growing/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:45:38 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/fight-for-transgender-rights-growing/ After decades of fighting her family, her community and herself over her gender identity, Kendall Balentine finally made peace with it. She became content to live out her retirement quietly, for the first time in her life as a woman, with her wife and dogs in the relative isolation of Deadwood, South Dakota.

That is, until last month. The South Dakota legislature advanced a bill requiring transgender students to use the bathroom matching the sex on their birth certificates. When an organizer with a national gay rights group called to see if she would come forward to call for the governor to veto the bill, requiring her to push herself into the limelight in a way she never imagined, she didn’t hesitate.

“All my life, I put myself in harm’s way because I couldn’t be who I was,” said Balentine, 49, a retired Marine and deputy sheriff who fully transitioned from living as a man to a woman last year. “I decided now I was willing to die for who I am and fight for those who didn’t have a voice.”

Balentine is part of a new wave of transgender people stepping out of the shadows to fight a surge in state bills requiring people to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms that differ from their gender identity – measures they consider unnecessary, dangerous and rooted in offensive stereotypes.

Many, like Balentine, have been recruited for the spotlight by national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups, scrambling to address a critical weak spot in their broader fight for rights: the country’s unfamiliarity with transgender people.

This small but visible group has emerged as the newest target, say gay rights activists, of conservatives who want to slow the momentum of last year, when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry.

After that landmark victory, activists moved to expand LGBT rights by pushing for local and state protections against discrimination. Their opponents seized on one singular outcome of the proposed expansion: the bathroom issue.

By arguing that nondiscrimination measures will permit biological males to enter women’s bathrooms, they have found a message that resonates with a broader cross-section of voters than measures that target same-sex marriage, which more than half of Americans now support.

The most stark example of that resonance came last fall, when Houston, a diverse and Democratic-leaning city that, at that time, was led by a gay mayor, voted overwhelmingly to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance that opponents said would lead to male sexual predators gaining access to sex-segregated spaces.

“I think it makes common sense to voters that they don’t want men to use women’s locker, shower or bathroom facilities,” said Mat Staver, chairman of the Liberty Counsel, which has endorsed the bathroom bills. “The transgender agenda could be, and I think is becoming, the Achilles’ heel of the gay and lesbian movement.”

Cognizant that bathroom bills imperil broader rights for all LGBT people, the gay rights movement is shifting much of its formidable organizational machinery to focus on transgender issues. Groups are rallying large companies and celebrities who long ago signed on to gay rights to vocally oppose laws that they view as targeting transgender people. They are diverting millions of dollars to campaigns that depict transgender people as ordinary Americans deserving of dignity and legal protections.

They are combing states for transgender people they can groom to lobby lawmakers and speak to media representatives, much as they identified gay men and lesbians with compelling personal stories to become faces of the movement and plaintiffs in lawsuits. And they are recruiting parents of transgender children to speak out on their kids’ behalf.

The “movement-wide focus” now centers on “how to crack the code on figuring out how to introduce transgender people to America,” said Kasey Suffredini, chief program officer for Freedom for All Americans, a group founded last year to prod cities, states and Congress to expand minority civil rights protections to gay and transgender people.

In a way, the task of introducing the public to transgender people has never been so easy. High-profile figures such as Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and actress Laverne Cox have put an attractive public face on the community. The Emmy-winning television series “Transparent” has delved deeply and frankly into one family’s dynamics after the father transitions to a woman. Transgender youths are increasingly making their presence known in schools.

The movement has logged some significant wins – including last week before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, which sided with a transgender teenager who sued his school district for forbidding him to use the men’s restroom.

But challenges remain. The transgender population is tiny, about 700,000 adults, according to the most recent serious effort to count the population, a 2011 study by the Williams Institute (the study’s author, Gary J. Gates, said in an interview that he thinks the number is an undercount).

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Divided Armed Services panel backs registering women for draft http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/divided-armed-services-panel-backs-registering-woman-for-draft/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/divided-armed-services-panel-backs-registering-woman-for-draft/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:17:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/divided-armed-services-panel-backs-registering-woman-for-draft/ WASHINGTON — Women would be required to register for the military draft under a House committee’s bill that comes just months after the Defense Department lifted all gender-based restrictions on front-line combat units.

A divided Armed Services Committee backed the provision in a sweeping defense policy bill that the full House will consider next month, touching off a provocative debate about the role of women in the military. The panel also turned aside a measure backed by Democrats to punish the Citadel military college in South Carolina for flying the Confederate flag.

The United States has not had a military draft since 1973 in the Vietnam War era, but all men must register with the Selective Service Systems within 30 days of turning 18. Military leaders maintain that the all-volunteer force is working and the nation is not returning to the draft.

The 32-30 vote Wednesday night came with a twist: The proposal’s author didn’t back it.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a former Marine who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not support drafting women into combat and opposes opening infantry and special operations positions to women. Hunter, R-Calif., said he offered the measure during the committee’s consideration of the policy bill to prompt a discussion about how the Pentagon’s decision in December to rescind gender restrictions on military service failed to consider whether the exclusion on drafting women also should be lifted.

That’s a call for Congress, not the executive branch, Hunter said. “I think we should make this decision,” he said. “It’s the families that we represent who are affected by this.”

At times, Hunter evoked graphic images of combat in an apparent attempt to convince colleagues that drafting women would lead to them being sent directly into harm’s way.”A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill,” Hunter said. “The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies’ throats out and kill them.”

But if Hunter was trying to sway people against his amendment, his plan did not work.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said she supported Hunter’s measure. “I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” she said.

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North Korean missile launches fail http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/north-korean-missile-launches-fail/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/north-korean-missile-launches-fail/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:07:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/north-korean-missile-launches-fail/ SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea tried unsuccessfully to launch two suspected powerful intermediate-range missiles Thursday, South Korean defense officials said, bringing the number of apparent failures in recent weeks to three.

The reported failures come ahead of a major North Korean ruling party meeting next week at which leader Kim Jong Un is believed to want to place his stamp more forcefully on a government he inherited after his dictator father’s death in late 2011.

The launches were believed to be the second and third attempted tests of a Musudan, a new intermediate-range missile that could one day be capable of reaching far-off U.S. military bases in Asia and the Pacific.

On Thursday morning, a projectile fired from a North Korean northeastern coastal town crashed a few seconds after liftoff, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity. It wasn’t immediately known whether it crashed on land or into the sea.

Then, in the evening, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the North fired another Musudan missile near Wonsan but that launch also presumably failed. There were no other details.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command confirmed that North Korea attempted two missile launches that did not pose a threat to North America. It did not provide details in a brief statement.

The Pentagon said in a statement later Thursday that both launch attempts failed.

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Taxing meat for its toll on climate urged in Denmark http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/taxing-meat-for-its-toll-on-climate-urged-in-denmark/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/taxing-meat-for-its-toll-on-climate-urged-in-denmark/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:01:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/taxing-meat-for-its-toll-on-climate-urged-in-denmark/ The meat industry contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust from every form of transportation on Earth – a whopping fifth of the total. Beef is the biggest culprit, and it requires almost 30 times as much land and 11 times as much water to produce as pork or chicken.

Denmark’s Council of Ethics, a government think tank, said that in light of these facts, Danes are ethically obligated to change their eating habits and that a sliding-scale tax should be imposed on foods that is proportional to their “climate impact.”

The proposal now goes before lawmakers. Under the plan, a tax would first be imposed on beef, then would be expanded to all red meat, and possibly further food sources based on the sliding-scale model. Denmark is a small country, and the effect of a tax on climate-change mitigation would be negligible, but the nation’s size allows for “greener living” to be built into people’s lifestyles more easily. More than a third of the residents in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, bike to work, and only 29 percent own a car. The government has a comprehensive plan to make the country independent from fossil fuels by 2050.

Americans eat about 200 pounds of meat per capita annually, which is more than double the global average, although overall meat consumption is increasing worldwide.

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Carrabassett Valley gets $135,000 grant for small businesses http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/carrabassett-valley-gets-135000-grant/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/carrabassett-valley-gets-135000-grant/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 00:58:50 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/carrabassett-valley-gets-135000-grant/ Carrabassett Valley will get a $135,000 grant from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, one of seven towns that have been awarded money under the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

The funding includes money from the Micro-Enterprise Assistance grant program, according to a news release Thursday from the department.

“These awards have a direct impact on the economic stability and sustainability of Maine’s small businesses,” DECD Commissioner George Gervais said.

“The investments made in these communities not only benefit the individual businesses, it also helps create new career opportunities for Maine people. The grants represent the LePage administration’s commitment to becoming better partners with the private sector, leveraging new private investment to achieve greater prosperity across Maine.”

The money for Carrabassett Valley will go to four businesses:

n Harmony House, for equipment and training.

n Carrabassett Cedar Works, for a new finishing room and equipment.

n All Points Transportation, for a seven-passenger SUV.

n KC’s Kreativity Center, for a new kiln and administrative assistance.

Other communities and businesses getting the grants are:

n Lisbon will get $150,000 for seven businesses in the Lisbon Falls village area for facade improvements.

n Lubec will get $75,000 to assist four businesses, which are the Lubec Brewing Co., Love at First Light, Old Crow Gardens and Gove Point Farms .

n Ashland will get $150,000 for eight businesses in the village and Route 11 corridor for facade improvements.

n Greenville will get $100,000 for two businesses, Maine Mountain Soap and Candle and Porter’s Garage.

n Sangerville will get $50,000 for Martin Cleaning Service to buy a reconditioned propane buffer and auto scrubber, and a commercial van with equipment racks and a pullout loading ramp.

n Brunswick will get $30,300 for Pathways Rehabilitation Services.

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Israeli officials respond to uproar over Netanyahu’s statements on ‘sovereignty’ over Golan Heights http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/israeli-officials-respond-to-uproar-over-netanyahus-statements-on-sovereignty-over-golan-heights/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/israeli-officials-respond-to-uproar-over-netanyahus-statements-on-sovereignty-over-golan-heights/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 00:46:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/israeli-officials-respond-to-uproar-over-netanyahus-statements-on-sovereignty-over-golan-heights/ JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sparked a new diplomatic brushfire by declaring that the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war, is and should remain “under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”

But following tough international criticism, Israeli officials said Netanyahu’s statements had been misconstrued and that a 1981 decision to apply Israeli law to the strategic plateau fell short of annexation.

The debate offers a window into a more nuanced Israeli perspective that, despite statements from the country’s hard-line political leadership, continues to leave the door open, just barely, to a peace deal when Syria’s civil war finally winds down.

For now, the debate is largely academic. Syria has been engulfed in civil war for nearly five years, and there is no end in sight. With Syria, and the Syrian side of the Golan, divided between Syrian troops and various rebel forces, there is nobody to talk to, even if Israel decided to open negotiations.

But the Golan remains central to any future peace deal with Syria, and its fate is a key part of a 2002 Saudi initiative that offered Israel peace with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

AN INTERNATIONAL UPROAR

While that offer is usually connected to areas sought by the Palestinians, the Golan is also considered occupied land by the international community. Past Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu himself, have held talks with Syria about control of the Golan.

So when Netanyahu convened his Cabinet for a first-ever meeting in the Golan on April 17, he triggered an international uproar by calling it “sovereign” Israeli territory.

“The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands,” he declared. “After 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”

The U.S., Israel’s closest ally, quickly criticized Netanyahu, saying the Golan is “not part of Israel.” Germany and the European Union also rejected his statement, as did the Arab League, 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Syrian government. And early this week, the U.N. Security Council took issue with him.

“Council members expressed their deep concern over recent Israeli statements about the Golan and stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged,” said Council President Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador to the U.N. He noted a previous 1981 resolution that said Israel’s decision to impose Israeli law on the Golan is “null and void.”

Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the parliamentary decision to impose Israeli law back in 1981 was “merely a means of governing” the territory.

He said Israel was careful not to annex the territory – a decision that would require additional parliamentary action – in order not to “prejudice” future border negotiations with Syria.

AN ‘ILL-ADVISED’ STATEMENT

“Israel has never claimed the Golan to be part of its sovereign jurisdiction,” said Baker. “That’s why in my opinion, the statement that was made was somewhat ill-advised.”

In reality, Israel has in effect already annexed the territory and any thought of returning it to Syria is deeply unpopular with Israelis. More than 20,000 Israeli settlers now live in settlements on the Golan, according to official Israeli statistics.

In a statement this week, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon accused the Security Council of “ignoring reality” with its criticism.

“With whom is Israel supposed to negotiate the future of the Golan – Islamic State? Al-Qaida? Hezbollah? The Iranian and Syrian forces that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people?” he said. “The suggestion that Israel will withdraw from the Golan is not reasonable.”

Still, he acknowledged that the Golan Heights is not part of “Israel proper,” even if Israeli law is enforced there.

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Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce celebrates eight new award winners http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/mid-maine-chamber-of-commerce-celebrates-eight-new-award-winners/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/mid-maine-chamber-of-commerce-celebrates-eight-new-award-winners/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 00:27:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/mid-maine-chamber-of-commerce-celebrates-eight-new-award-winners/ FAIRFIELD — Networking and open space were the key words Thursday night during the 53rd annual awards ceremony of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

Space was a feature of the open Donald V. Carter Hall Gymnasium at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfiel, where the event was held; and networking was a result of the easy mingling and hobnobbing the space afforded.

Chamber President and CEO and Central Maine Growth Council Executive Director Kimberly Lindlof didn’t have to use many words when telling Chamber members and visitors how much she liked the gymnasium, with high ceilings and colorful paper lanterns hanging from the rafters.

“Space,” she said waving her arms like a flying bird. “There’s space here. This allows you to network to congratulate the winners and to make your way around the room and meet new people, which is one of the focuses of the Chamber — to encourage business growth and to meet new people.”

Lindlof and Chamber Program Director Christian Savage said the group decided on a new format this year, using five caterers and two cash bar stations, rather than a formal seated affair.

“We decided to change it up a little bit this year so that it’s more of a networking event,” Lindlof said. “Instead of a sit-down with one restaurant, we have five different restaurants highlighted here tonight.”

Savage agreed, noting that early returns showed that attendees like the new format.

“We found that year after year a lot of the crowd showed up to congratulate recipients, the award winners, but we had such a large program there wasn’t enough time to really do so,” Savage said. “So we asked our membership what they like most about the event, and it was the networking, the socializing. They said shorten the presentation so we can focus on socializing and networking and get out earlier and give people a chance to talk with the winners afterwards, too.”

Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce award winners were:

• Elias A. Joseph Award: Nicole Desjardins Seekins

• Customer Service Stardom Award: Seth Rogers, Maine Technology Group

• Community Service Project of the Year: Quarry Road Trails

• Rising Star Award: Jonathan Kent, Thomas College

• Distinguished Community Service Award: Don and Irene Plourde, Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate

• Business Person of the Year: TJ Bolduc, Advance 1 Cleaning

• Business of the Year: Amici’s Cucina

• Outstanding Professional: Danielle Marquis, Higgins & Bolduc Agency

Nathan Towne, newly hired marketing manager for Waterville Creates! sporting an authentic 1950s patch Madras jacket he said his father had owned, praised the Chamber event.

“I’m very impressed with the venue,” he said. “I’ve never been to KVCC before. This is a fantastic space for this. The Chamber does amazing events and the networking. I’m pretty excited about the new format to do a lot more networking, especially being new to the area.”

KVCC President Richard Hopper, a Chamber director, told the assembly Thursday night that the college is proud to host the event and grateful for such a large crowd.

“I’m very pleased how a college gym can look,” he said of the work done by fellow Chamber director Darleen Ratte in getting the place ready for Thursday night’s celebration.

“Waterville and the area of Fairfield and Winslow and Oakland — we’re at a point where we have folks in key positions,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy around development of the downtown area of Waterville, and we’re starting to feel that we are really positioned for things to take off well and this Chamber is instrumental to how that’s going to happen. I’m just very excited about what’s happening in our region.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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Maine supreme court upholds Greek Orthodox priest’s sex abuse conviction http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/maine-supreme-court-upholds-greek-orthodox-priests-sex-abuse-conviction/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/maine-supreme-court-upholds-greek-orthodox-priests-sex-abuse-conviction/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:58:10 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/maine-supreme-court-upholds-greek-orthodox-priests-sex-abuse-conviction/ BANGOR — The Maine supreme court has rejected the appeal of a former Greek Orthodox priest who was convicted of sexually abusing a child.

The justices let the conviction of Adam Metropoulos, 53, stand on Thursday. The Bangor man is serving a 6½-year sentence for four counts of sexual abuse of a minor.

Metropoulos was convicted and sentenced a year ago. A former altar boy at St. George Greek Orthodox Church said he was sexually assaulted by Metropoulos as a teenager. The man, now 23, testified that Metropoulos “stole my life.”

Metropoulos’s lawyer didn’t return a message left at his office.

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F. Haydn Williams, led effort to build WW II memorial, dies at 96 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/f-haydn-williams-led-effort-to-build-ww-ii-memorial-dies-at-96/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/f-haydn-williams-led-effort-to-build-ww-ii-memorial-dies-at-96/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:55:52 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/f-haydn-williams-led-effort-to-build-ww-ii-memorial-dies-at-96/ F. Haydn Williams, a former Defense Department official and president of the Asia Foundation who spearheaded efforts to build the National World War II Memorial on the Mall, died April 22 at his home in San Francisco. He was 96.

The cause was heart disease, said a great-niece, Katie Evans.

During a long career in international development and diplomacy, Dr. Williams held academic posts and served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense under presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. From 1964 to 1989, he was president of the Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization providing international development support to countries in Asia.

Williams, a World War II veteran, was appointed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton to the American Battle Monuments Commission. As chairman of its National World War II Memorial committee, he led the complicated and sometimes controversial process of procuring a site and gaining approval for the memorial’s design.

“The Washington Monument took 52 years to build,” Williams told the Chicago Tribune in 1998. “The Lincoln Memorial took 21, the Jefferson Memorial took nine, and the FDR Memorial took 42. We’re likely to surpass them all.”

The project took on a poignant urgency because it was not formally approved by Congress until 1993, five decades after World War II was fought. Veterans were dying by the thousands, and many would not live to see the memorial’s completion.

Amid considerable debate about the memorial’s site and design, Williams said it should become a prominent part of “the monumental core of Washington,” befitting the war’s role as “the defining event of the 20th century.”

He was principally responsible for selecting the memorial’s ultimate location, a 5 1/2-acre site on 17th Street NW, between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

The spot included the so-called Rainbow Pool, an oblong fountain at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool. The land near the Rainbow Pool had long been used as the staging area for the Mall’s July 4 fireworks and as a landing site for helicopters bringing dignitaries to the White House and Capitol.

Opponents criticized the secrecy of the process and said the site was selected in 1995 without proper public notice. Williams was quoted as saying, “The site was approved before they” – the public – “knew what hit them.”

Williams faced further hurdles when the memorial’s design, by architect Friedrich St. Florian, was unveiled. Architecture critics, public officials and even some veterans criticized the huge structure as a monstrosity reminiscent of the “gigantic classical monuments built for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by his architect, Albert Speer,” as Chicago Tribune writer Michael Kilian put it.

After St. Florian’s design was scaled back, the World War II Memorial opened to the public in April 2004.

Franklin Haydn Williams was born Aug. 21, 1919, in Spokane, Washington, and was 9 when his family moved to Oakland, California. Both of his parents were born in Wales, and his father was a Presbyterian minister.

As a Navy officer during World War II, Williams participated in air evacuations of U.S. prisoners of war held by the Japanese. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1946 and received master’s and doctoral degrees in 1947 and 1958, respectively, from the Fletcher School, a graduate program of international studies at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

He held teaching and administrative positions at the Fletcher School before serving as deputy assistant secretary of defense for national and international security from 1958 to 1962.

While leading the Asia Foundation, Williams was also a presidential representative, with ambassadorial rank. From 1971 to 1976, he led negotiations over the future of the Pacific island territories collectively known as Micronesia.

The negotiations ultimately brought an end to U.S. trusteeship over Pacific island territories that had been administered by the United States since World War II. Some of the islands became independent countries, and others retained a formal connection with the United States.

His wife of 43 years, the former Margaret French, died in 2005. Survivors include a stepson, Thomas Gregory of Novato, California, and a sister.

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‘Whitey’ Bulger’s girlfriend gets more prison time for her ‘twisted’ loyalty http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/whitey-bulgers-girlfriend-gets-more-prison-time-for-her-twisted-loyalty/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/whitey-bulgers-girlfriend-gets-more-prison-time-for-her-twisted-loyalty/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:53:38 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/whitey-bulgers-girlfriend-gets-more-prison-time-for-her-twisted-loyalty/ BOSTON – The longtime girlfriend of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was sentenced Thursday to an additional 21 months in prison by a judge who said she had shown a “twisted” sense of loyalty to Bulger by refusing to testify about whether other people helped him while he was a fugitive.

Catherine Greig, 65, already is serving an eight-year sentence for helping Bulger while he was a fugitive. She spent 16 years on the run with him before they were captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011.

Bulger, now 86, was convicted of a litany of crimes in 2013 – including participating in 11 murders – and is serving life in prison.

Federal prosecutors had asked the judge to add a little more than three years to Greig’s prison time for her conviction on a criminal contempt charge for disobeying a judge’s order to testify before a grand jury investigating whether other people helped Bulger while he was on the run.

Greig’s lawyer had asked for leniency and said she should not get any more than six months.

U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor IV imposed a sentence in the middle of the two recommendations, but not before rejecting an argument from Greig’s lawyer that her only crime was loving Bulger and remaining loyal to him. Saylor called Bulger a lifelong criminal and “serial murderer.”

“It is hard to imagine a less worthy object of affection than Bulger,” Saylor said.

“History, I think, will remember Bulger as a monster,” he added.

Greig’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington, called the sentence “very severe” and said Greig does not believe that Bulger committed all the crimes he was convicted of in 2013.

“She still thinks he’s the guy she fell in love with,” Reddington said.

Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was fatally shot by Bulger and another man in 1982, said 21 months is not enough time for Greig’s refusal to testify.

“How do you go before the grand jury and refuse to testify? … That’s OK to do that? That’s what they’re saying by giving her less than two years,” she said.

Greig already had nine months added to her prison time after she was found in civil contempt for refusing to testify.

During his trial, prosecutors said Bulger worked for the FBI as a criminal informant on the New England Mob, a rival criminal group to his gang. Bulger denied being an informant.

Bulger also called his trial a “sham” because the judge denied his request to present a defense based on his claim that he received immunity for his crimes from a now-deceased federal prosecutor. The judge found that Bulger had offered no hard evidence to support his claim and that a prosecutor would not have had the authority to grant immunity for crimes that included murder.

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Harry Wu, exposed Chinese labor camps, dies at 79 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/harry-wu-exposed-chinese-labor-camps-dies-at-79/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/harry-wu-exposed-chinese-labor-camps-dies-at-79/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:31:30 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/harry-wu-exposed-chinese-labor-camps-dies-at-79/ Harry Wu, a Chinese dissident who mounted an international campaign to expose the horrors of his country’s laogai labor camps, where he endured 19 years of captivity as an alleged counterrevolutionary, died Tuesday while vacationing in Honduras. He was 79.

Ann Noonan, a board member of the Laogai Research Foundation, founded by Wu in 1992, confirmed his death and said she did not know the cause.

Wu settled in the United States in 1985 after a ghastly odyssey in the Chinese prison system in which he withered to 80 pounds, was worked nearly to death and survived, in part, on food that he foraged in rats’ nests. His offense, as a university student in the years after the Chinese Communist Revolution, had been to criticize the 1956 invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Union, the world’s other major Communist power.

SELF-DESCRIBED ‘TROUBLEMAKER’

Wu was imprisoned in 1960. After his release in 1979, three years after the death of Communist leader Mao Zedong, he built a profile as a human rights activist and self-described “troublemaker” who repeatedly slipped back into China to gather undercover footage of the prison camps.

The footage aired on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” and on the BBC in the 1990s. With those reports, Wu helped draw widespread attention to Chinese practices of using forced labor to produce exports – among them wrenches and artificial flowers ultimately banned by the United States – and harvesting organs from executed prisoners. According to his research, more than 50 million prisoners passed through the system over 40 years.

He was at times compared to Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer who documented the atrocities of the Soviet gulag. Wu described the loagai prisons, which purported to deliver “reform through labor,” as the Chinese gulag and said he would not rest until the word loagai appeared in “every language dictionary in the world.”

He testified before Congress, lectured on university campuses, wrote books and established the Laogai Research Foundation and Laogai Museum, both based in Washington, to educate the public about the Chinese labor camps.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he described them as “the cornerstone of the Chinese Communist dictatorship and the machinery for crushing human beings physically, psychologically and spiritually.”

By his account, Wu stole from prisoners and collaborated with police to survive in prison.

“I became an animal,” he told The Washington Post. “If you are human, you have feelings and suffer because you are always thinking and wishing about what cannot be. But animals never think, never wish. Unless you are an animal, you cannot survive.”

He endured solitary confinement and suffered a broken back when a runaway cart struck him in a coal mine. When his captors discovered that he had hidden Western books, including Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables,” they broke his arm. He once attempted suicide by refusing to consume the meager provisions the prisoners received.

A turning point came with the death of a fellow inmate and friend. Wu clutched his body as it was carried to a grave, he recounted in a memoir, “Bitter Winds” (1994), coauthored with a journalist, Carolyn Wakeman.

“Human life,” he recalled thinking, “has no more importance than a cigarette ash flicked in the wind. But if a person’s life has no value, then the society that shapes that life has no value either. If the people mean no more than dust, then the society is worthless and does not deserve to continue. If the society should not continue, then I should oppose it.”

UNSTINTING IN HIS ADVOCACY

Unstinting in his advocacy, Wu at times attracted controversy for the stridency of his campaign, which complicated tenuous U.S.-Chinese relations in the years after the Tiananmen Square crackdown. He was arrested after entering China in 1995, a development condemned by both houses of Congress, shortly before first lady Hillary Clinton planned to travel to Beijing for a U.N. conference on women.

Wu was detained for 66 days and convicted of espionage, but he was expelled in time for the first lady’s trip.

Asked why he returned so many times to China, when the danger to him was so great, he replied, “I cannot turn my back to my homeland.”

“My parents’ graveyard, my former inmates’ graveyards are over there,” he said. “That piece of land is full of my blood and tears.”

Wu Hongda, one of eight children, was born in Shanghai on Feb. 8, 1937. His father was a banker, and his mother died when he was young.

Wu attended a Jesuit school, where he received the name Harry, and later pursued university studies in geology. As a student, he took part in the Hundred Flowers campaign in which Mao encouraged citizens to air grievances with the party.

When party leaders received more criticism than they wished to hear, they cracked down on so-called counterrevolutionary rightists. Among them was Wu. His stepmother committed suicide during his captivity.

After his release, Wu worked in China as a geology lecturer. In 1985, he came to San Francisco, where he was homeless for a period before finding work in a doughnut shop. In time, he established himself through scholarly associations with the University of California at Berkeley and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

In 1994, he became a U.S. citizen, taking the name Peter Hongda Wu. His books included “Laogai: The Chinese Gulag” (1992) and “Troublemaker” (1996), coauthored with former New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey.

Wu was married several times, most recently to Ching Lee. Their marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include a son, Harrison Wu of Vienna, Virginia.

“I want to enjoy my life,” Wu told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “I lost 20 years. But the guilt is always in my heart. I can’t get rid of it. Millions of people in China today are experiencing my experience. If I don’t say something for them, who will?”

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Les Waas, Mister Softee jingle writer, dies at 94 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/les-waas-mister-softee-jingle-writer-dies-at-94/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/les-waas-mister-softee-jingle-writer-dies-at-94/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:30:45 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/les-waas-mister-softee-jingle-writer-dies-at-94/ PHILADELPHIA — Les Waas, the advertising legend behind the Mister Softee jingle heard in hundreds of ice cream trucks for more than half a century, has died. He was 94.

Waas died April 19 at Abington Hospice in Warminster, according to Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks funeral home.

The Mister Softee song, originally written in 1960 for the company started in his Philadelphia hometown just a few years earlier, played in the company’s ice cream trucks as a way to signal their approach. Soon, the song became ubiquitous with ice cream, summer and fun as the opening notes became instantly recognizable to anyone within earshot – sparking a craving they didn’t realize existed.

Both loved and loathed, the jingle remains a lasting part of the collective American childhood.

The tune has also been used by competitors to lure children out of their homes and into the streets for frozen treats. During his advertising career, which spanned more than five decades, Waas wrote and produced more than 970 jingles for advertisers, according to the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia – where he served as president and chairman of the board.

The Mister Softee song, officially titled “Jingle and Chimes,” is his greatest legacy. Although most people know the notes of the twinkling, looping cadence, the song also has lyrics, including: “The creamiest dreamiest soft ice cream you get from Mister Softee” and “Listen for my store on wheels ding-a-ling down the street.”

Mister Softee has over 600 trucks and over 350 franchise dealers operating in 15 states plus China.

Waas was also known for his sense of humor. University of Calgary psychology professor Piers Steel wrote in a 2011 “Psychology Today” article that in 1956, Waas and some of his fellow admen posted a sign in a Philadelphia hotel reading, “The procrastination’s club meeting has been postponed.” The sign drew attention from local press, prompting Waas to eventually hold the meeting – the start of a long-running prank. Waas served as president of the Procrastinators Club of America, which even today claims thousands of members.

Waas’ wife, Sylvia, died in 2006. He is survived by his children, Sherri Waas Shunfenthal and Murry Waas.

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Manhattan chef Sara Jenkins to open Mediterranean restaurant in Rockport http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/manhattan-chef-sara-jenkins-to-open-mediterranean-restaurant-in-rockport/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/manhattan-chef-sara-jenkins-to-open-mediterranean-restaurant-in-rockport/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:22:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/manhattan-chef-sara-jenkins-to-open-mediterranean-restaurant-in-rockport/ Sara Jenkins, well known in Manhattan for the sandwich shop Porchetta and the rustic Italian restaurant Porsena, is moving to Rockport to launch a Mediterranean restaurant in the space occupied previously by Salt Water Farm Café. She hopes to open the restaurant, to be named Nina June after a childhood nickname, in early June.

Jenkins has lived and cooked in New York City for 17 years. Her porchetta sandwich caused a sensation when her tiny East Village shop opened in 2008, winning the top spot on that year’s Time Out New York “100 Best Things We Ate” list. Porsena is a New York Times Critics’ Pick.

“Her approach to food is as authentically Italian as anyone’s has ever been,” said Mitchell Davis, vice president of the James Beard Foundation in New York and an occasional resident of Italy. Whatever she cooks “comes out with an Italian sensibility that is pure and simple and in some ways unadulterated but very soulful.”

MORE CREATIVE FREEDOM IN MAINE

She came by that approach honestly. Although Jenkins attended Gould Academy in Bethel, she had an international childhood, including many years in Italy. She is the daughter of foreign correspondent and food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who lives in Camden and is well known for her cookbooks and other writings on Mediterranean food.

In New York, Sara Jenkins has been pegged as a rustic Italian cook. In Maine, she is looking forward to a little more creative freedom in the kitchen, a chance to roam more broadly around the Mediterranean region, Jenkins said in a telephone interview from New York. She listed the cuisines of Spain, Turkey and the Middle East as those she’s eager to explore more thoroughly.

Sara Jenkins, right, spends time at a kitchen in Cuba in 2012.

Sara Jenkins, right, spends time at a kitchen in Cuba in 2012.

“I’m almost scared of using the Mediterranean tag because it’s been so abused, but essentially to me it’s a cuisine of local ingredients, focused on seafood, vegetables, grains and greens, olive oil and a small amount of meat,” Jenkins said. “And that’s really what I like to cook. Kind of clean food that’s well sourced.”

Jenkins, who said she is on the verge of signing the lease, described the former Salt Water space as “turnkey.” It has room for about 50 diners inside and another 20 or so on the deck.

Salt Water Farm Café opened in the spring of 2013 in Rockport’s newly renovated Union Hall. Owned by Annemarie Ahearn, in tandem with her Salt Water Farm Cooking School in Lincolnville, it was a gorgeous rustic-chic spot – The Wall Street Journal described it as “Brooklyn-meets-Mayberry” – with glorious views of the water. After two years, the restaurant closed for the season – and apparently for good – in September.

“The cooking school was growing really quickly, and that’s sort of where my heart lies,” Ahearn said in explaining why she decided to close the restaurant. “I realized if I wanted it to continue to grow, that’s where I had to focus. Sara (Jenkins) has more than 10 years of cooking experience, and she seemed like a really good fit for the space and the town. I’m really excited for her, and I can’t wait to be a customer.”

LEAVING THE CITY, KEEPING RESTAURANTS

Jenkins gave two reasons for moving to Maine: “I have a kid (a 9-year-old son), and I’d like to raise him in Maine, and I’ve gotten really excited and jazzed by everything going on in Maine in the food scene in the past 10 years.”

She named Long Grain in Camden, the Palace Diner in Biddeford, the Slipway in Thomaston, Chase’s Daily in Belfast and Suzuki Sushi Bar in Rockland among the restaurants that make her eager to cook in a state once better known for fried clams, clam chowder and lobster rolls than for its varied, farm-to-table cuisine. “I happen to love fried clams, clam chowder and lobster rolls,” she noted.

Jenkins is not selling her Manhattan restaurants. She opened Porchetta with her cousin, who still manages it, and she described the Porsena kitchen as very solid. She expects to be traveling back and forth to some extent, but says she is ready to leave the city.

“There is a level of fetishization of food that seems to be going on (in New York), and I’m really over it,” she said. “I want to cook good food for people who appreciate it and not be stressed out about ‘Did I make it onto this list? Are enough people talking about me?’

“New York is just too difficult to live in at this point in my life,” she said. “Usually I shuffle between home and work, home and work, home and work. Ten years ago I would go out after work, but I have a kid. Many people ask me, ‘What I am going to do in the winter (in Maine)?’ I am going to read books. I never get to read books.”

GETTING READY FOR THE LAUNCH

She also hopes to have more time for writing. Jenkins has co-written two cookbooks (one, “The Four Seasons of Pasta,” with her mother) and wrote a series of columns for The Atlantic website.

Jenkins, who will commute to Maine in May and move here in June, said she is “plugging away” at hiring, local sourcing, developing the menu and figuring out prices for Nina June; she expects the most expensive entree to be $35.

The name Nina (pronounced NINE-a) June comes from a nickname her grandfather gave her as a baby. Jenkins was born on June 9, and he suggested she be named Nina June so she’d never forget her birthday. She was named Sara, but the nickname stuck.

Ideally, Jenkins would open Nina June, at least for breakfast, on her 51st birthday – a former Porsena sous chef will help with the launch – and be serving three meals a day through the summer by July 4.

 

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Tracing firearms used in crimes is inexact science http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/tracing-firearms-used-in-crimes-is-inexact-science/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/tracing-firearms-used-in-crimes-is-inexact-science/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:15:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/tracing-firearms-used-in-crimes-is-inexact-science/ SMYRNA, Ga. — Adventure Outdoors is an 80,000-square-foot store with walls lined with long guns, cases packed with handguns and aisles jammed with all the accessories an avid outdoorsman would need: coolers, clothing, ammo. At the customer service counter is a government-issued poster that warns: “Don’t lie for the other guy.”

Store founder Jay Wallace said his staff is diligent about making sure buyers are legitimate and not fronting for someone who is legally prohibited from buying a gun. But once a sale goes through, he said, it’s out of his hands.

“A firearm takes on a life of its own after it leaves. It can be bought and sold many times over,” Wallace said.

The flow of guns from one person to another, and from states with loose gun laws to those with strict ones, has long flummoxed law enforcement and gun-control advocates and is emerging again as a hot topic.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton singled out rival Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont, which has few gun restrictions, for supplying a disproportionate share of firearms used in crimes in New York. (She exaggerated: in reality, many more guns flow in from states to the south.) California Gov. Jerry Brown, after the San Bernardino attack, charged that lax gun laws in Arizona and Nevada have created a weapons pipeline into California. And Chicago has long been plagued by guns traced to points as far away as Mississippi.

THEY ARE DIFFICULT TO TRACK

While the vast majority of guns used in crimes were originally sold legally, what happens to such weapons after their initial sale is difficult to track and even harder to prevent, because most criminals get their guns from friends, family or on the street.

“We have very little information about the precise course that all the guns take that are used by criminals,” said Daniel W. Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

The government has essentially two snapshots of a gun: where it was purchased and where it was recovered, an incomplete picture because not every gun recovered by police is traced.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show that guns used in crimes usually are bought in the state where the offense is committed.

Of the 7,686 firearms recovered in New York that were traced by the ATF in 2014, 1,397 were originally sold in New York. The top out-of-state source of firearms was Virginia, where 395 firearms originated, followed closely by Georgia and Pennsylvania.

After the attacks in San Bernardino, California’s governor noted that his state has some of the country’s toughest gun laws and complained that neighboring Arizona and Nevada are “a gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.” The governors of Nevada and Arizona rebuked Brown and, in any event, the guns used in the attacks were bought legally in California.

Around the U.S., the data suggest three significant routes for out-of-state guns: the “iron pipeline” that runs along Interstate 95 from the South to the Northeast; a path from Mississippi and Indiana into Chicago, which has some of the toughest run restrictions in the nation and does not have a single gun shop within the city limits; and a channel that runs from Arizona and Nevada into California.

I-95’s accessibility – it connects more than a dozen major cities – makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to prevent firearms from making their way northward, said John DeCarlo, a former police chief in Branford, Connecticut, who is now a professor at the University of New Haven.

“It’s the equivalent of the Old Silk Road,” he said.

SOUTH EXPORTS TO THE NORTHEAST

Johns Hopkins’ Webster said I-95’s accessibility coupled with less strict laws in the South are the reasons the South is a key exporter of guns to the Northeast.

The gun lobby and firearms dealers say the tracing data are misleading. They say the problem is not law-abiding gun dealers or a particular state’s laws.

“The bottom-line answer is passing a law doesn’t stop bad guys from breaking the law,” said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. “Bad guys are still going to get the guns – and what happens is it prevents good people from getting guns.”

A decade ago, Wallace’s store was among about two dozen that found themselves in the crosshairs of a sting operation when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York sought gun dealers he accused of turning a blind eye to “straw purchases” that allow weapons to fall into the hands of criminals in the big city. A straw buyer is someone who poses as a customer but is actually purchasing the weapon for a person who is ineligible because of a criminal conviction, mental illness or some other reason.

About a dozen guns recovered from crimes in New York over a six-year period were originally purchased at Wallace’s store in metro Atlanta. Not one, he said, was ever fired during a crime, and only one was actually employed as a weapon, when it was used to hit somebody.

During that six-year period, his store sold 60,000 firearms, said Wallace, a member of the board of directors of the American Firearms Retailers Association. A court-ordered special master later monitored sales at Wallace’s store for several years and issued recommendations. But no fines were ever levied or further action taken.

Wallace said customers encounter at least four employees during the purchase, each of whom asks a series of questions meant to pinpoint potential red flags while also helping customers pick out the best weapon for their needs.

“We’re at the front lines,” he said. “You never read about it when we turn down a transaction.”

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Emissions from Westbrook power plant coat 300 cars in Idexx parking lot http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/emissions-from-westbrook-power-plant-coat-300-cars-at-idexx-parking-lot/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/emissions-from-westbrook-power-plant-coat-300-cars-at-idexx-parking-lot/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:33:56 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/emissions-from-westbrook-power-plant-coat-300-cars-at-idexx-parking-lot/ One cleanup has led to another – and a bill of over $300,000 – for the Calpine power plant in Westbrook.

Maintenance work done there this month resulted in rust spewing from the plant’s exhaust stacks and mixing with rain, creating a residue that coated about 300 cars in an employee parking lot at nearby Idexx Laboratories.

Calpine is paying between $1,000 and $1,500 to have each of the cars detailed, said John Flumerfelt, a spokesman for the company.

“We feel really, really bad that this happened,” he said Thursday, adding that the substance posed no environmental or health risks. He said the company reported the incident to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which did not have concerns.

“Based on the information we have received, this was an isolated event and not ongoing or systemic and would not have lasting impacts on the environment or human health,” DEP spokesman David Madore said in an email Thursday.

Westbrook City Administrator Jerre Bryant said city staff also reviewed the situation and is confident the substance was not hazardous.

Flumerfelt said the maintenance that was performed is done every five to eight years by an outside contractor, Wisconsin-based Precision Iceblast Corp., which sprays dry ice onto metal boiler tubes to remove any rust. Usually the residual rust falls to the bottom of the boiler and gets swept away, but for some reason, not all of it fell.

When Calpine restarted its plant April 12 after the maintenance was complete, the residue spewed out of the stacks. It mixed with rain that day and was carried by the wind, turning into a thin film when it landed on cars a couple of hundred yards away in part of the employee parking lot at Idexx. A handful of cars parked at Calpine also were affected, Flumerfelt said.

Both companies are located in the Five Star Industrial Park on Eisenhower Drive.

MAINTENANCE COMPANY CALLS IT A ‘FIRST’

Precision Iceblast warned Calpine employees not to park their cars too close to the exhaust stacks, but having so much residue affect cars so far away is not something either company had seen.

“We clean hundreds of power plants all over the world and this is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Keith Boye, vice president of sales for Precision Iceblast. He said he has been in touch with Calpine, a Texas-based corporation and regular customer of Precision Iceblast.

Boye doesn’t know why the exhaust stacks spewed more rust than usual. As far as preventing it from happening again, he said, “I don’t know what you could do.”

Pete Dewitt, a spokesman for Idexx, said the veterinary products manufacturer is working with Calpine to clean the cars of the “substantial number of employees” who were affected.

“The solution is more than a simple car wash,” he said.

Corey Nickerson, owner of Detail Maine in Windham, has completed the work on four cars from the lot and has 20 more booked.

“That number just grows by the hour,” he said, noting it’s already a busy time of year with people getting out boats and cars for the summer.

Removing the residue, which contains iron deposits and possibly some acid, starts with using a chemical cleaner, followed by a clay bar that can pick up what’s left, Nickerson said.

He then neutralizes the acid in the paint with another cleaner, polishes the paint and waxes it.

The process takes a full work day for each car.

He said in hotter weather there’s a greater chance of the iron starting to creep into the paint, causing it to rust. Acid can pit the paint and the glass on the car.

If nothing were done, the residue could cause permanent damage over time, Nickerson said.

“As long as it’s taken off, and taken off properly and protected after, it’s just an inconvenience,” he said.

‘CALPINE HAS HANDLED THIS SITUATION’

Nickerson believes that if it hadn’t rained, no one would have noticed, and some still might not have if Calpine didn’t respond to the situation.

It took a few days for Ryan Dumond, who works in information technology at Idexx, to realize there was something that didn’t belong on the Volkswagen Tiguan he bought four months earlier.

The Volkswagen Tiguan owned by Idexx employee Ryan Dumond coated with a rust-like residue, top, from the Calpine power plant.

The Volkswagen Tiguan owned by Idexx employee Ryan Dumond coated with a rust-like residue, top, from the Calpine power plant. And after being cleaned. Photos courtesy of Corey Nickerson 

Dumond had taken note of something coming out of the smokestacks at Calpine and quickly connected the two. He contacted security at Idexx, which was aware of the situation and was trying to figure out what had happened.

“It was a little frustrating, but these things take time,” Dumond said.

Before the full extent of the problem was known, Idexx told its employees that they could wash their cars if they felt so compelled and to keep a record of the work done. Dumond contacted Nickerson, a friend who’s worked on his car before.

Dumond was relieved to learn the residue could be removed, and now is glad to have his car looking shinier than the day he bought it.

“All in all, Calpine has handled this situation, I think, to the best of its ability,” he said.

 

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Portland poised to form task force to study pesticide restrictions http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/portland-poised-to-form-pesticide-task-force/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/portland-poised-to-form-pesticide-task-force/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:17:13 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/portland-poised-to-form-pesticide-task-force/ A Portland City Council committee wants to create a task force to consider possible restrictions on the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers on public and private land in the city.

The council’s Energy and Sustainability Committee voted in favor of creating a 12-member task force that would include landscapers, anti-pesticide advocates, academics and residents, according to Councilor Jon Hinck, committee chair. Members would be nominated by Mayor Ethan Strimling.

Hinck hopes the full council will vote to approve the plan soon.

“We’re trying to move it forward pretty rapidly,” Hinck said.

The proposal comes as South Portland is considering a ban on most synthetic lawn and garden pesticide use on public and private property. The proposal would exempt commercial agriculture and playing surfaces at golf courses, and it would allow waivers for public health, safety and environmental threats, such as mosquitoes, poison ivy and invasive tree insects.

Twenty-six Maine communities, including Ogunquit, Brunswick, Rockland, Wells, Lebanon and Waterboro, have pesticide-control ordinances.

Portland already is scaling back on the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and is testing the effectiveness of alternatives.

Ethan Hipple, the city’s recreation director, said crews will no longer use the weed-killer Roundup on downtown streets and sidewalks. Instead, it will use an organic pesticide called Avenger that was tested last year. It also is no longer using synthetic pesticides on playgrounds, cemeteries and other open spaces frequented by children, he said.

Hipple said the city also is testing organic products on heavily used fields, such as Quinn Field in Deering Oaks Park and at the base of the sledding hill in Payson Park. Half of each area will be treated with organic products and the other half with synthetic to compare results, he said.

“We wanted to take a first step, but we didn’t want to jump so far into the deep end we would risk losing our fields,” Hipple said. The city has 48 athletic fields.

The cost of organic pesticides can be about 30 percent higher than for synthetic versions and require more frequent applications, Hipple said.

One landscaper who has opposed pesticide restrictions welcomed the plan to test organic products before drafting an ordinance.

“We’re very interested in how that works. That will be a great learning tool,” said Jesse O’Brien, a partner at Down East Turf Farm in Kennebunk, which uses both organic and synthetic products.

An organic products proponent hopes the testing will lead to an ordinance in Portland.

“This is amazing and really cool this is going to happen. Hopefully there is an ordinance that codifies that,” said Avery Yale Kamila, an organizer of Portland Protectors, which opposes synthetic pesticides. Kamila writes a vegetarian food column for the Portland Press Herald.

Kamila hopes Portland will use South Portland’s ordinance as a model; O’Brien says he hopes the city will conduct its own thorough review, based on industry best practices and science rather than on emotion, and come up with its own plan.

South Portland has been working on its ordinance for nearly a year. Proponents of pesticide restrictions hope Portland will copy that ordinance, which they say will be one of the most far-reaching and environmentally progressive in the nation. Others hope the city will develop rules specific to Portland’s needs.

Some South Portland councilors appear to have concerns about its ordinance, which some say has the potential to pit neighbors against neighbors, because enforcement will be conducted on a complaint-driven basis, Portland Councilor Edward Suslovic said. He wants the task force to take its time and be open to recommending an education program, rather than regulations, while putting equal emphasis on pesticides and fertilizers.

“I think we can do better than the South Portland ordinance, frankly,” he said. “This is not something you can send out the lawn police to enforce.”

But Councilor Hinck wants results.

“If it is going to move expeditiously, then it’s all the more important that it gets the benefit of work that has been done elsewhere, (South Portland) being the closest and leading example for us,” Hinck said.

The task force will be asked to report back by July 10 and give a formal presentation to the committee at the following meeting.

 

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Lawmakers returning to Augusta to decide on dozens of vetoes http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/lawmakers-return-to-augusta-with-dozens-of-vetoes-on-their-plates/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/lawmakers-return-to-augusta-with-dozens-of-vetoes-on-their-plates/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:06:13 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/lawmakers-return-to-augusta-with-dozens-of-vetoes-on-their-plates/ AUGUSTA — Solar energy, county jail funding and access to the lifesaving drug naloxone are some of the big issues that state legislators will debate Friday as they take up dozens of bills vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage.

The vetoed bills run the gamut from local initiatives – such as funding for education programs in Androscoggin County – to complex statewide issues dealing with heroin and energy policy. Lawmakers also are likely to debate a minimum wage increase as well as Medicaid expansion – two contentious issues that have remained stalled in the Legislature.

All told, lawmakers will decide whether to uphold or overturn at least 33 LePage vetoes handed down since the Legislature adjourned April 16, although the governor had until day’s end Thursday to veto others. With the outcome already known on many vetoes, legislative leaders are hoping for a smooth end to a largely unremarkable 2016 session.

“I don’t think there will be long debates on a lot of bills,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

“It should be a short day,” said Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport.

NALOXONE: LIFESAVING OR ENABLING?

Among all of LePage’s vetoes this legislative session, none has prompted more debate than his veto of a bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription.

Also known by the brand name Narcan, naloxone reverses the potentially deadly effects of an overdose from heroin or other opiates. The antidote is already available by prescription to friends and relatives of individuals with opiate addictions in the state; L.D. 1547 would allow Maine to join more than 30 other states that don’t require a prescription.

LePage sparked anger among some when he wrote in his veto letter that naloxone “does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

“Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction,” LePage wrote.

Dr. Joseph Valdez, medical director of outpatient addiction services at Portland’s Mercy Hospital, was among those who spoke out against what he called LePage’s “frustrating and somewhat baffling” reasoning behind the veto. Valdez said people need to understand that addiction is a medical disease and “not the result of a bunch of bad people carrying on.”

“We have an epidemic of opiate addiction and young people are dying of overdoses, so we should be doing everything we can to address that,” Valdez said. “I have many patients who have experienced an overdose or witnessed an overdose who, because they were administered naloxone or witnessed it, are now being given a chance to get into treatment.”

The bill passed the Maine House by a significant margin this month, but fell just shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a gubernatorial veto. Supporters, however, believe they now have enough votes to overturn the veto.

“Instead of it being a close vote, I think it is going to be overwhelming,” Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said Wednesday.

LANDMARK BILL ON SOLAR ENERGY

After last-minute negotiations failed, LePage vetoed a bill that aims to increase solar energy generation in Maine while changing the “net metering” program in which solar customers receive credits for electricity fed back into the power grid.

There is a lot riding on the solar bill, which has arguably seen more lobbying this session than any other measure.

Supporters, who plan a large rally before Friday’s votes, say the bill would provide a much-needed boost to an industry that could add as many as 650 jobs in Maine. Opponents, led by LePage, said the final version does not do enough to protect traditional ratepayers from having to pick up the tab for expanding an industry that critics contend largely benefits the wealthy.

“I tried to negotiate in good faith with Democrats … (but) we could not reach an agreement,” LePage wrote in his veto letter issued Wednesday. “They are not serious about reducing the price of energy for Maine families or job creators.”

The bill, L.D. 1649, passed the House on a vote of 91-56 this month. That is roughly 10 votes shy of the number needed to override the veto.

“I have received more emails during the solar conversation … than on any other bill,” said Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, the Senate minority leader. “We’ll see. It starts in the House and I’d love to see it get to the Senate.”

WAGES AT RIVERVIEW PSYCHIATRIC

Despite all of the attention paid to Riverview Psychiatric Center in recent months, lawmakers were unable to reach a compromise on how to deal with patients sent to the Augusta hospital by the criminal justice system.

One Riverview-related measure that did manage to survive the legislative process would provide pay increases to workers at Riverview and at Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor.

The bill, L.D. 1645, would provide a $2-per-hour pay raise to mental health workers, licensed practical nurses and the acuity specialists trained to respond to individuals in “psychiatric crisis.” The bill also would increase the hourly pay of some nurse and psychologist positions by $4.

Bill advocates, led by the unions representing Riverview workers, argued that the pay raises were necessary to address a staff retention and recruitment “crisis” at the 92-bed psychiatric hospital. Riverview and LePage administration officials have countered that the hospital has been filling vacancies and that a pay raise would not address other challenges.

“The easiest thing the Legislature can do to help Riverview is to stop subjecting it to a constant barrage of hearings, reports and studies,” LePage wrote in his veto letter. “As a recent Court Master review stated, one of the greatest barriers to recruitment at Riverview is the negative publicity it constantly receives in the media – publicity usually generated by legislative hearings and press releases.”

FUNDING FOR COUNTY JAILS

Another bill vetoed by LePage, L.D. 1614, would provide $2.4 million in emergency funding to Maine’s county jails both this year and next year.

Last year, lawmakers gave control of the jails back to the counties and eliminated the state Board of Corrections. But county officials have said they need another $2.4 million per year to operate the jails.

County jails have been a flash point for the governor for several years. LePage says he doesn’t care who runs the jails – the state or the counties – he just wants the arm of government that does to be responsible for paying the bills.

“Currently, county funding for operation of the jails is capped,” LePage wrote in his veto message. “If counties spend above the cap, as they invariably do, then the state is asked to provide supplemental funding to cover the difference. For too long, state taxpayers have had to pick up the tab for the cost of the county jails because, due to the cap, there is no incentive for counties to rein in jail spending.”

Bill supporters said LePage’s veto will only shift the burden onto local taxes.

MINIMUM WAGE – AGAIN

Although not involving a gubernatorial veto, House lawmakers also are expected to officially kill a bill seeking a more modest minimum wage increase than the $12-an-hour proposal on the November ballot.

Earlier this month, Republicans brought forward a proposal to increase Maine’s minimum wage in several stages from $7.50 an hour to $10 an hour in 2019. The proposal, which is backed by business groups, is offered as an “emergency measure” in order to take effect before Maine voters decide this November on the $12-an-hour proposal sought by progressive groups and labor unions.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate, but with less than the two-thirds majority needed to become law. Eves said Thursday that he fully expects the Democrat-controlled House to kill the bill.

 

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Couple charged with passing counterfeit money in central Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/couple-charged-with-passing-counterfeit-money-in-central-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/couple-charged-with-passing-counterfeit-money-in-central-maine/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 21:58:53 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/couple-charged-with-passing-counterfeit-money-in-central-maine/ A Greenwood couple was arrested Wednesday after allegedly passing counterfeit money at Wal-Mart stores in Mexico and Skowhegan.

Stefan McIntyre, 26, allegedly bought and returned an Internet router using a mix of legitimate money and counterfeit currency Tuesday at the Skowhegan store, then tried to do the same thing again Wednesday, said Detective Sgt. Josh King of the Skowhegan Police Department.

Both McIntyre and Chani Greiner, 31, allegedly spent counterfeit money Sunday at the Mexico Wal-Mart, said Mexico police Chief Roy Hodsdon. Both are charged with aggravated forgery in Oxford County, and McIntyre is charged with aggravated forgery in Somerset County.

McIntyre bought a $300 router at the Mexico store with what police say was counterfeit money, and Greiner allegedly spent about $80 in counterfeit money on groceries, Hodsdon said.

On Tuesday, McIntyre also bought a router at the Skowhegan store, allegedly using a mix of counterfeit and real money, police said. He returned the router the same day for cash, and store employees realized afterward that the money was counterfeit, King said.

On Wednesday, employees recognized McIntyre when he returned to the store to buy another router.

“They were kind of on the lookout, and when he passed the money, they felt it and it didn’t feel genuine,” King said.

Wal-Mart had alerted police in both communities to reports of counterfeit money, and as a result of McIntyre’s arrest Wednesday in Skowhegan, charges also were brought in Oxford County, Hodsdon said.

The Mexico Police Department searched the couple’s Greenwood home, seizing $100 in what police said was counterfeit money as well as computer equipment police believe was used to produce the money. Police also found about 15 pounds of processed and packaged marijuana, 2 to 3 grams of cocaine, $4,177 cash and an SKS semi-automatic rifle. There are further pending charges in Oxford County, Hodsdon said.

McIntyre and Greiner are from New Hampshire but have been living in Maine at least since the winter, he said.

Under Maine law, a charge of forgery includes making or altering a written document. The charge can be aggravated if it includes the manipulation of government documents such as money, stamps or public records.

The use of counterfeit money in Maine has become more prevalent as drug abuse increases here, Hodsdon said.

“If anyone’s paying in a large amount of cash, you need to be cognizant of what you’re taking,” he said. “For instance, the $300 in $20 bills in this case all had the same serial number. Check serial numbers, check the texture of the money and the color.”

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Significant premium increases expected under Affordable Care Act http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/significant-premium-increases-expected-under-obamacare/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/significant-premium-increases-expected-under-obamacare/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 21:16:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/significant-premium-increases-expected-under-obamacare/ WASHINGTON – Insurers will seek significant premium hikes under President Obama’s health care law this summer – bitter medicine for consumers and voters ahead of the national political conventions.

Expect the state-by-state premium requests to reflect what insurers see as the bottom line: The health law has been a financial drain for many companies. They’re setting the stage for 2017 hikes that could reach well into the double digits, in some cases.

For example, in Virginia, a state that reports early, nine insurers returning to the HealthCare.gov marketplace are seeking average premium increases that range from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent. Those initial estimates filed with the state may change.

In Maine, Lewiston-based Community Health Options is the largest provider of health insurance under the health law. The nonprofit co-op provides coverage to 84,000 policyholders in Maine and New Hampshire. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield also provide insurance under the law.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Lewis could not be reached for comment Thursday, but in March he told the Portland Press Herald, “We have a clear plan for 2016,” and beyond. “It’s safe to say there will be (premium) increases.”

Lewis declined to say how much the increase might be, but said Community Health Options will submit its rate proposal to the Maine Bureau of Insurance sometime in mid-May. Premiums increased only about 0.5 percent in 2015, Lewis said.

The Maine Bureau of Insurance must approve any increase before new rates take effect in January 2017. Eric Cioppa, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance, could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

After a successful first year, when Community Health Options was the only co-op in the country to report a surplus, it ran into trouble with higher than expected claims last year.

It reported a loss of $31 million in 2015. In December, the Maine Bureau of Insurance intervened and closed down new enrollments while it got its finances in order. The co-op cut $11 million in operating expenses and in reports to the state appears to have met its budget goals.

LOW ENROLLMENT, SICKER CUSTOMERS

More than 12 million people nationwide get coverage though the health law’s markets, which offer subsidized private insurance. But the increases could also affect several million who purchase individual policies outside the government system.

Entering the program’s fourth year, the health law’s markets are still seeking stability, in contrast to more-established government programs like Medicaid and Medicare Advantage, in which private insurers profitably cover tens of millions of people.

The health law’s nagging problems center on lower-than-hoped-for enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers, and a balky internal stabilization system that was already scheduled to be pared back next year.

This year, premiums for a benchmark silver plan rose by a little more than 7 percent on average, according to administration figures. A spike for 2017 would fire up the long-running political debate over the divisive law, which has survived two Supreme Court challenges and a Republican repeal bill, which Obama vetoed.

Of the presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton is the only one promising to build on the Affordable Care Act. She’s proposed an aggressive effort to increase enrollment along with measures to reduce consumer costs. The Republican candidates all want to repeal “Obamacare.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would incorporate it into a bigger government-run system covering everyone.

The health law is “likely in for a significant market correction over the next year or two,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “There have been a lot of signals from insurers that premiums are headed up.”

Standard & Poor’s health insurance analyst Deep Banerjee said he expects premium hikes to be higher for 2017 than in the larger, more stable market for employer coverage. Insurers are facing higher medical costs from health law customers, and some companies priced initial coverage too low in an attempt to grab new business.

“What they are doing now is trying to catch up,” said Banerjee.

SUBSIDIES WILL ALSO INCREASE

Aetna chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini said Thursday the nation’s third-largest health insurer still sees a good business opportunity, but Congress needs to provide leeway for companies to design lower-cost plans tailored to young, healthy people.

“We will see the dynamics of the market get tougher as we go forward if we don’t get those kinds of structural changes,” he said. How that would happen in a politically polarized atmosphere, Bertolini did not explain.

Aetna lost more than $100 million on its health law business last year but hopes to break even this year.

The administration says talk of premium increases is premature and overblown. Insurer’s initial requests will be denied in some states, officials say, aided by a rate-review process strengthened under the health law.

Most significantly, more than 8 of 10 customers in the health law’s markets get subsidies to help pay their premiums, and they will increase as premiums rise. Many have also shown they’re willing to shop around for lower-priced coverage.

“Marketplace consumers would do well to put little stock in initial rate filings,” spokesman Ben Wakana said in a statement. “Averages based on proposed premium changes are not a reliable indicator of what typical consumers will actually pay.”

Also mitigating the pressure for higher premiums is a one-year moratorium – for 2017 – on a health law tax on insurers, part of last year’s federal budget deal.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the litany of insurer complaints.

Last month, an analysis of medical claims from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association concluded that insurers gained a sicker, more costly patient population as a result of the law.

Recently, UnitedHealth, the nation’s biggest insurer, said it will pull back from the health law markets, citing estimated losses of $650 million this year, on top of $475 million it lost last year.

Many insurers struggled because they didn’t know how much medical care their new customers would use. Some patients had been out of the health care system for years and had been holding off getting needed care.

Insurers who are more bullish on the program tend to be ones that expanded slowly into the markets and have a lot of experience working with low-income Medicaid recipients.

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Chipotle opens in Portland as chain works to recover from 2015 food poisonings http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/portland-chipotle-opens-amid-turmoil-for-the-tarnished-restaurant-chain/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/portland-chipotle-opens-amid-turmoil-for-the-tarnished-restaurant-chain/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:39:20 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/portland-chipotle-opens-amid-turmoil-for-the-tarnished-restaurant-chain/ The first Chipotle Mexican Grill in Portland has opened at a time when the publicly traded restaurant chain is scrambling to recover its reputation and customers after multiple incidents of food poisoning.

The Portland Chipotle opened April 17 at 45 Marginal Way, formerly the site of Century Tire. The Bayside property has been redeveloped by Portland-based Northland Enterprises and renamed Century Plaza. Northland said in a news release that a T-Mobile store also will be opening soon on the property.

Chipotle made financial headlines this week when the Denver-based company reported that same-store sales were down nearly 30 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier. The news sent Chipotle’s stock plummeting because the sales decrease was even greater than investors had anticipated. In the past six months, the company’s stock has lost almost half its previous value.

After enjoying years as a darling of the corporate restaurant world, Chipotle’s reputation as a healthy alternative to hamburger chains took a serious hit in 2015. Two major E. coli outbreaks were linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington, Oregon, California, Minnesota and several other states. Outbreaks of norovirus and salmonella also were linked to the chain.

Chipotle implemented a number of changes to its supply chain and food preparation methods as a result of the outbreaks. In February, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the Chipotle-related E. coli outbreaks had ceased.

Northland purchased the former Century Tire property from Atlantic Bayside Investments in 2015. In addition to the Century Tire site, Northland also acquired 1 Marginal Way, 200 Kennebec St. and 202 Kennebec St., all of which it plans to redevelop. Century Tire closed in February 2014 after almost 90 years in business at 45 Marginal Way.

“It’s always exciting to see business come to life in an area that’s being redeveloped,” said Josh Benthien, who along with business partner Rex Bell is a principal owner of Northland. “Since the closing of Century Tire, the neighbors have been eager to see the area bounce back. It’s been a complex project, but we’ve worked closely together with Portland City Hall, and it’s nice to see that work come to fruition.”

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Pentagon disciplines 16 personnel involved in deadly Afghanistan hospital attack http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/pentagon-disciplines-16-personnel-involved-in-deadly-afghanistan-hospital-attack/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/pentagon-disciplines-16-personnel-involved-in-deadly-afghanistan-hospital-attack/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:57:40 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/pentagon-disciplines-16-personnel-involved-in-deadly-afghanistan-hospital-attack/ WASHINGTON – About 16 U.S. military personnel, including one general officer, have been disciplined for mistakes that led to the bombing of a civilian hospital in Afghanistan last year that killed 42 people, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.

According to officials, no criminal charges were filed and the service members received administrative punishments in connection with the U.S. airstrike in the northern city of Kunduz. A number of those punished are U.S. special operations forces.

And while none was sent to court martial, in many cases a nonjudicial punishment, such as a letter of reprimand or suspension, can effectively end a military career. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon is expected to release the full report on the investigation Friday.

Last month, The Associated Press reported that more than a dozen U.S. military personnel had been disciplined in connection with the bombing, and that they were all largely administrative.

The hospital, run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, was attacked by a U.S. Air Force special operations AC-130 gunship, one of the most lethal in the U.S. arsenal. Doctors Without Borders has called the attack “relentless and brutal.”

Last November, the U.S. military said the crew of the AC-130, which is armed with side-firing cannons and guns, had been dispatched to hit a Taliban command center in a different building, 450 yards away from the hospital. However, hampered by problems with their targeting sensors, the crew relied on a physical description that led them to begin firing at the hospital even though they saw no hostile activity there.

Officials have said the accident was caused by human error, and that many chances to avert the incident were missed.

A separate U.S. report on the incident, obtained last fall by The Associated Press, said the AC-130 aircraft fired 211 shells at the hospital compound over 29 minutes before commanders realized the mistake and ordered a halt. Doctors Without Borders officials contacted coalition military personnel during the attack to say the hospital was “being ‘bombed’ from the air,” and the word finally was relayed to the AC-130 crew, the report said.

The attack came as U.S. military advisers were helping Afghan forces retake Kunduz, which had fallen to the Taliban on Sept. 28. It was the first major city to fall since the Taliban were expelled from Kabul in 2001.

Afghan officials claimed the hospital had been overrun by the Taliban, but no evidence of that has surfaced. The hospital was destroyed and Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym, MSF, ceased operations in Kunduz.

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Unsettling silence takes hold a week after Ohio family’s slaughter http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/unsettling-silence-takes-hold-a-week-after-ohio-familys-slaughter/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/unsettling-silence-takes-hold-a-week-after-ohio-familys-slaughter/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:38:35 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/unsettling-silence-takes-hold-a-week-after-ohio-familys-slaughter/ PIKETON, Ohio – From her house on Union Hill Road, Brittany Barker heard sirens first thing in the morning. She looked out and saw four police vehicles rush past. That was only the beginning.

“They just kept coming, kept coming, and kept coming,” she recalled.

Authorities in this struggling corner of Appalachia were dealing with what turned out to be one of the worst mass killings in Ohio history: Eight family members were shot to death at four homes scattered across a few miles of countryside in what investigators have portrayed as a meticulously planned “execution.” Some victims were beaten and some shot repeatedly – one, nine times.

What looked to some people like a feud within a family, possibly a murder-suicide, soon took on a more sinister cast when authorities disclosed a large-scale illegal marijuana growing operation at one of the crime scenes and said pot was being cultivated at some of the other homes, too. Ohio’s attorney general also said there were signs of cockfighting at one of the properties.

NO ARRESTS, NO MOTIVES

Nearly a week after the killings, though, authorities have announced no arrests and no motive, an unsettling silence considering the huge investigative force brought to bear in this thinly populated county where many people either knew the victims or knew of them.

Since the discovery of the bodies April 22, over 215 law enforcement officers have been involved in the investigation, with several hundred tips received and more than 50 people interviewed.

Attorney General Mike DeWine has said he doesn’t want to telegraph to the killer or killers what investigators know.

Relatives of the victims said they were surprised by the marijuana. Some neighbors said they had heard rumors. And some said the marijuana-growing was a case of courting trouble.

“If you don’t go around bad places, the odds of something bad happening to you are pretty slim,” said Ron Lucas, a paper-mill worker who lives a few miles from where the killings took place.

But Angie Tolliver, a home health aide, said that whatever connection drugs may have had to the slayings, “Nobody deserves that. That’s just evil.”

POT-GROWING COMMON IN AREA

Large marijuana operations are common in Pike County, scene of the killings. Authorities in 2012 said the seizure of about 1,200 plants in Pike County could be related to a Mexican drug cartel, while in 2010 more than 22,000 plants were confiscated. Marijuana is grown widely in parts of southern Ohio, where the dense forests and rural roads make it easy to hide the crop, and where many people need the money.

While the cleanup of a shuttered Cold War-era uranium plant employs hundreds of people in some of the best-paying jobs around town, about one-fifth of Pike County’s 28,000 residents live in poverty, and the area roughly 80 miles east of Cincinnati consistently has some of Ohio’s highest unemployment and drug-overdose death rates.

Investigators won’t say if the killings are related to the marijuana, and law enforcement officials not associated with the investigation cast doubt on any cartel connection, saying there are no signs of it in Ohio.

The victims were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., 19-year-old Hanna and 20-year-old Clarence, or “Frankie”; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; their cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden; and 20-year-old Hannah Gilley, whose 6-month old son with Frankie Rhoden was unharmed. Two other children, Hanna Rhoden’s 4-day-old daughter and Frankie Rhoden’s 3-year-old son, also were unharmed.

NEW REALITY SETTLES IN

Neighbors used to leaving doors open are settling into a nervous new reality. Gone is the sound of the loud truck that Frankie Rhoden used to drive up and down Union Hill Road. Sheriff’s deputies sit round-the-clock in cruisers on either end of the hilly road, keeping out everyone but residents, approved visitors and investigators.

Roads in the area cut through slowly greening forests sprinkled with the white petals of early-blooming dogwood trees. Trailers surrounded by jumbles of cars, propane tanks and tractors sit side-by-side with neat, well-kept homes. Steer grazing on pastures share the landscape with old family cemeteries.

Guns are a staple in these wooded hills, where neighbors say they wouldn’t think twice about opening fire if an unfamiliar figure showed up with a weapon. A $10 fund-raising raffle for a local Masonic lodge offers a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle as first prize.

Some people in the area said they are scared, but most seem to believe the victims were targeted and the killers long gone.

“Somebody that slaughters a whole family wouldn’t stay here,” said Ray Goldsberry.

Law enforcement authorities have pretty much suggested the same thing, though Sheriff Charles Reader said: “If you are fearful, arm yourself.”

‘A LOT OF THEM ARE SCARED’

Dozens of officers from outside the county have come to town, helping the beleaguered sheriff’s office with patrol duties. At calling hours Wednesday at the Kentucky funeral home where Gary Rhoden lay, several state troopers and sheriff’s deputies stood guard a few from the front door.

Family members “really want their privacy. And a lot of them are scared,” said Lisa Wallace, Gary Rhoden’s former sister-in-law. She said he was a harmless person whose killer or killers were cowards.

“Hurting Gary was like kicking a dog,” she said.

Barker, the neighbor who saw the first emergency vehicles scream past, said that if she were in any danger, she probably would have been killed the night of the slayings. But she also said her peaceful surroundings don’t feel like home now.

“It just feels kind of strange knowing that they’re not there anymore,” she said.

Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this story.

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