News – The Portland Press Herald Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:22:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mainers in Washington say there is a party atmosphere despite intense security Fri, 20 Jan 2017 15:49:22 +0000 Mainers attending the inaugural festivities in Washington, D.C., Friday morning said the city was buzzing with both security and visitors as they made their way to spots along the parade route or took their seats in the grandstands to watch Donald Trump being sworn in as president.

“It’s just a little drizzle right now, but not bad,” Brad Littlefield, a Scarborough resident, said in a telephone interview. Littlefield and his friends were taking in the sights as they familiarized themselves with the city’s underground train system and scoped out a spot near the junction of 15th Street and New York Ave. to watch the inaugural parade.

Littlefield said security appears to be tight, with Jersey barriers and dump trucks full of sand being used to block vehicle access to streets that are normally busy with traffic. He said helicopters were buzzing in the skies above and there is a large police presence on the ground as well.

“There’s no petty crime going on down here today,” Littlefield said. He said their group witnessed only one small anti-Trump protest, but that had been contained to one small area and, for the most part, things were peaceful. He also said that while security is tight, it isn’t overbearing and hasn’t dampened the “party atmosphere.”

“You never see one police car. You see four if they are going anywhere,” Littlefield said. “But it’s not so bad that you can’t breathe, either.”

He said the lobby of hotel they were staying at Thursday night had to be evacuated and a bomb squad was called in, but that it turned out to be a false alarm and the disruption was minimal. He and friends traveled to a concert at Lincoln Memorial Thursday where Trump greeted his supporters.

Littlefield also attended a reception for Mainers on Thursday with Sen. Susan Collins and he offered her one dance slipper for the inaugural ball, a joke about Collin’s injured right ankle. She broke her ankle in Maine over the holidays when falling on the ice at her Bangor home. Collins was still in a cast, Littlefield noted, and not likely to be doing much dancing.

Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, said Friday morning that she was at her seat in front of the Capitol and watching as high-profile dignitaries and politicians such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were being ushered to their seats. Espling, a national Republican committee member from Maine was in a group with other committee members who all were up at 5 a.m. to get to their spots. While her direct view of the stage wasn’t great, she said, there were giant television screens set up so people could see what was happening. The inaugural ceremony was set to start at about 11:30 a.m. she said.

Espling said she was grateful to be able to attend.

“I think a lot of people want to go and not everybody can, so it’s a privilege to be here,” Espling said.

This report will be updated.

]]> 0 fill in along the National Mall before the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the Untied States during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:53:16 +0000
Donald Trump’s inauguration in pictures Fri, 20 Jan 2017 15:33:57 +0000 0 Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrives for a church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, on Donald Trump's inauguration day. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:34:39 +0000 Maine blueberry processor, EPA reach settlement over handling of chemical Fri, 20 Jan 2017 15:10:18 +0000 BOSTON — Hancock Foods has agreed to pay a $103,613 settlement to resolve federal concerns over its handling of a chemical used in refrigeration.

The settlement agreed upon by the company and the Environmental Protection Agency resolves questions surrounding the blueberry processor’s handling of anhydrous ammonia and its failure to timely report a release of the chemical.

Anhydrous ammonia, which is used in refrigeration, is flammable, and potentially explosive, in some situations. It’s also corrosive to the skin, eye and lungs.

The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EPA says the case is one of many brought to improve safety at companies that have industrial refrigeration systems.

]]> 0, 20 Jan 2017 10:19:36 +0000
The Latest: DC police confront group of demonstrators Fri, 20 Jan 2017 13:16:20 +0000 WASHINGTON — The Latest on Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

As Donald Trump and President Barack Obama made their way to the Capitol, police were confronting a group of demonstrators wearing black in downtown Washington and using what appeared to be pepper spray.

Protesters were carrying signs denouncing capitalism and Trump.

Police cordoned off about 100 demonstrators who chanted “hands up, don’t shoot.”

A helicopter hovered overhead.

11:10 a.m.

President Barack Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, have arrived at the Capitol for Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

Trump is joined by his family, including his five children Eric, Don Jr., Ivanka, Tiffany and youngest son, Barron.

11:05 a.m.

Incoming first lady Melania (meh-LAH’-nee-ah) Trump is wearing a sky blue cashmere jacket and mock turtleneck combination by Ralph Lauren for Inauguration Day.

In a statement, the Lauren Corp. says: “It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating iconic American style for this moment.”

Mrs. Trump’s hair is in a soft updo and accessorized with long suede gloves and matching stilettos. She was greeted at the White House by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama was wearing red, short-sleeve dress.

Ivanka Trump chose Oscar de la Renta, and Hillary Clinton showed up in a white Ralph Lauren pantsuit that harkened back to the one she wore to accept the Democratic nomination for president at her party’s convention in July. Her jacket matched.

Who else made a large fashion statement for Trump’s big day?

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway wore a military-style wool coat by Gucci of red, white and blue, with two rows of cat-head buttons and a matching red cloche hat. She described her look as “Trump revolutionary wear.”

11 a.m

President Barack Obama’s departing White House staff is offering a subtle message on the walls of their lower press office as he leaves office.

Obama aides left up on a wall printed front pages from some of Obama’s biggest moments, including his 2009 inaugural, his signing of his health care law and the death of Osama bin Laden.

The wall typically features the day’s front pages. The compilation of Obama front pages was put up about a week ago.

Obama’s press offices were largely emptied out when Trump arrived at the White House for tea with the outgoing president.

It was unclear whether the front pages will still be there when Trump’s team arrives. A cleaning crew was expected to prepare the premises for the incoming administration.

10:55 a.m.

Hillary Clinton says she’s attending Donald Trump’s inauguration to “honor our democracy.”

Clinton made the comment on Twitter Trump took the oath of office. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton are both in attendance.

Here’s what Clinton is saying: “I’m here today to honor our democracy & its enduring values. I will never stop believing in our country & its future.”

10:50 a.m.

President Barack Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, are departing the White House to head to Trump’s inauguration.

The pair got into a limousine that will take them to the Capitol.

Also on their way are Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and Trump’s wife, Melania.

10:35 a.m.

Crowds on the National Mall — where people without tickets can watch the inauguration — are growing steadily.

But less than two hours before the swearing-in, there are still wide swaths of empty space. There are strong suggestions that the crowds will not match President Barack Obama’s first inaugural eight years ago.

Some people were prevented by security barriers from getting closer to the Capitol despite having plenty of space in front of them.

The grass on the Mall was protected by white plastic and there were some muddy spots amid intermittent rain.

10:33 a.m.

Most of the Donald Trump backers who are walking to the inauguration past Union Station in Washington are trying to ignore protesters outside the train station.

Then there’s Doug Rahm, who engaged in a lengthy and sometimes profane yelling match with protesters.

“Get a job,” Rahm said. “Stop crying snowflakes, Trump won.”

Rahm — who’s from Philadelphia and does high-rise restorations, is with Bikers for Trump. He says the protesters should get behind the new president.

He says, “This is unite America day.”

10:30 a.m.

Hillary Clinton has arrived for the inauguration of the man who defeated her in a bitter presidential contest.

Clinton is at the Capitol with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Trump and Clinton were last face to face at a charity dinner in New York in October.

The Democratic nominee and former secretary of state waved to reporters when she arrived for the ceremony on Friday morning, but she’s not answering questions.

Trump viciously attacked Clinton throughout the campaign and his pledge to incarcerate her led to “Lock her up!” chants becoming a staple at his rallies.

After the election, Trump appeared to back off that threat.

10:25 a.m.

President Barack Obama has left a letter for his successor in the Oval Office before departing the White House — as is the tradition from one president to the next.

The White House is providing no details about what Obama conveyed to Donald Trump.

Obama campaigned vigorously against Trump. But the president and president-elect have had regular phone conversations since the election, with the president offering guidance and advice.

10:20 a.m.

Belgium’s prime minister Donald Trump will uphold NATO’s security guarantees and live up to the expectations of the American people.

Charles Michel says in a statement before Trump takes the oath of office that “it is essential that our engagement is maintained” to guarantee peace and stability through NATO.

Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and says European members aren’t paying their fair share.

Michel’s statement contains no congratulations. He does say “the expectations of the American people are high” and hopes Trump “will be able to deliver.”

Michel also says the European Union is entering a new era and it’s his belief “that Europe more than ever needs to defend its own agenda and interests.”

10:15 a.m.

A high-profile Republican congressman says he would have attended the inauguration if Democrat Hillary Clinton won the election.

But Utah’s Jason Chaffetz (CHAY’-fits) — a persistent Clinton investigator — says he would have been thinking: “Here we go again. I’d be so distraught.”

He also says, “It was never an easy or predictable path to the White House, but here’s Donald Trump.”

More than 50 House Democrats are planning to boycott the ceremony. Some are citing Trump’s criticism of John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader who’s questioned Trump’s legitimacy to be the next president.

10:05 a.m.

The White House says members of the residence staff have presented President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with two American flags that were flown atop the building.

One of the flags was flown on the first day of Obama’s presidency. The other was flown on his final morning as president.

The Obamas are preparing to depart the White House for the last time as president and first lady when they head to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

9:55 a.m.

President Barack Obama and the first lady Michelle Obama are welcoming President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, to the White House.

The Obamas have greeted the Trumps at the grand North Portico, the column-lined entrance facing Pennsylvania Avenue.

Obama told Trump that it was good to see him. They exchanged pleasantries, and Melania Trump brought a gift for Michelle Obama.

Melania Trump initially reached to shake Michelle Obama’s hand, but the first lady instead gave her a hug.

The families will have coffee and tea at a reception that’s closed to the media.

9:45 a.m.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are asking the public to help them develop projects for his new presidential center on Chicago’s South Side.

The Obamas are starting up a foundation website — — in the hours before Donald Trump is inaugurated the 45th president.

Obama says the foundation’s projects will be developed “all over the city, the country and the world.” He asks Americans to “tell us what you want this project to be and tell us what’s on your mind.”

The foundation is developing Obama’s presidential library and center in Chicago.

9:40 a.m.

Donald Trump is heading to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama.

Trump has left St. John’s Church across from the White House. He paused to shake hands with a clergy member at the door and then walked to his waiting vehicle.

There were cheers from supporters as Trump left the church.

He was followed by family members and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Pence said he was “very humbled” when he was asked about his message for the day.

9:35 a.m.

President Barack Obama is taking a final stroll from the Oval Office through the Rose Garden as a sitting president. He’s soon to welcome his successor, Donald Trump, to the White House.

Obama was seen leaving papers on his desk in the Oval Office. He’s told reporters he’s feeling nostalgic on his final day as president.

He says his final message to the American people is “thank you.”

9:30 a.m.

President Barack Obama is bidding farewell on Twitter.

Here’s what it says on the official presidential account:

The president has been striking an optimistic tone in the final days of his administration and he is also asking people to share their thoughts about the focus of his new foundation’s work.

9:25 a.m.

Donald Trump will soon have a new home — the White House.

But what about another property just down Pennsylvania Avenue: the hotel he leases from the federal government at the Old Post Office building.

The contract with the General Services Administration bars elected officials from benefiting from it. Yet Trump hasn’t said he’s divested from the hotel — and he hasn’t tried to alter the contract.

House Democrats say GSA officials told them that Trump would violate the contract the moment he takes office. The GSA has said publicly it won’t weigh in on the matter until after Trump’s in office.

9:10 a.m.

About 100 protesters are attempting to block a gate near the inaugural parade route in Washington.

They’re calling for a response to climate change and they’re holding signs that say “Resist Trump, climate justice now.”

There are also chants of “This is what democracy looks like!”

Police are keeping a lane open for ticket holders to get through.

9:05 a.m.

House Democrats will wear special buttons at Donald Trump’s inauguration as a silent protest of Republican efforts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The blue buttons say #protectourcare. That’s a Twitter hashtag that some advocacy groups have been using to rally support for the law.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has asked Democrats to show solidarity at the swearing-in and wear the buttons.

More than 50 House Democrats plan to boycott the ceremony. Some are citing Trump’s criticism of John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader who’s questioned Trump’s legitimacy to be the next president.

8:55 a.m.

Donald Trump says his inauguration will have “an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout.” Organizers of a protest the next day say their event will be the biggest demonstration in history to welcome a new president.

But how many people will show up at those gatherings? That’s a question that may never be answered satisfactorily.

There won’t be an official tally at Friday’s inaugural festivities or the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday.

For decades, the National Park Service provided official crowd estimates for gatherings on the National Mall.

But the agency stopped providing counts after organizers at 1995’s Million Man March threatened a lawsuit. They complained that the National Park Service undercounted attendance at the march.

8:50 a.m.
It was still dark when Jeff McNeely and Rob Wyatt woke up and caught an early train to Washington for Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The political activists from North Carolina say they supported Trump from early on and wanted to witness the historic day in person.

McNeely calls Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton “the greatest political upset of all time.”

Wyatt wants Americans to give Trump “the opportunity to learn.” Wyatt says Trump’s “going to make mistakes,” but he also says, “so has every president we’ve had.”

8:45 a.m.
Actor Matthew McConaughey says the American people need to “embrace” the fact that Donald Trump won the election and make the best of the next four years.

The movie star says Americans need to “shake hands with the fact that this is happening and it’s going down.”

McConaughey is in London promoting two new movies and says he’s planning to watch the swearing-in live.

He’s predicting that “it’s going to be a dynamic four years.”

8:40 a.m.
President-elect Donald Trump has emerged from Blair House to start the Inauguration Day festivities.

Trump and his wife, Melania, stepped out of the government guest house next to the White House just after 8:30 a.m. and took a motorcade for the short drive to St. John’s Episcopal Church.

After the service, they’ll head to the White House to be greeted by President Barack Obama.

8:35 a.m.
Members of President-elect Donald Trump’s team are starting to arrive as Inauguration Day festivities get underway.

Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus arrived shortly after 8 a.m. at Blair House — the government guest house across from the White House. It’s where Trump stayed on his final night before becoming president.

Also seen arriving are senior adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and communications aide Hope Hicks.

Trump’s motorcade is waiting for him outside Blair House. He’ll soon go to a nearby church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, for a prayer service.

7:30 a.m.
President-elect Donald Trump is starting inaugural day off with a tweet.

Trump and his wife Melania will begin their day at St. John’s Episcopal Church, located across Lafayette Park from the White House. They’ll then meet with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House before joining them for the trip to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.

7:25 a.m.
It’s still early in Washington on Inauguration Day, but the protesters who vowed to keep guests with tickets from watching Donald Trump take the oath of office aren’t having much luck.

Dozens of protesters are lined up at the “blue gate” entrance to a seating area on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, holding signs that read “Free Palestine” and “Let Freedom ring.” Some are wearing orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces, protesting U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

But police are behind the protesters, allowing those with tickets to make their way through the gate. On the other side of the Capitol, things are quiet and orderly at the “orange gate.”

Eleanor Goldfield helped organize the #DisruptJ20 protests. At the “blue gate,” she says they want to show Trump and his supporters that they will not be silent throughout his presidency. She calls Trump supporters “misguided, misinformed or just plain dangerous.”

7:15 a.m.
Kevin Puchalski is a 24-year-old construction worker who drove to Washington from Philadelphia with two friends to see Donald Trump’s inauguration as the next president.

He says that while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had much more support than Trump in his hometown, he attended a Trump rally in rural Pennsylvania and “it was fantastic.”

He says, “I’m here for history. This is the first president that I voted for that won.”

Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania was key to his Electoral College win over Clinton. The state had voted for the Democratic nominee in the previous six presidential elections.

Puchalski says his main hope for Trump is that he fulfills his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. He says, “The wall. Honestly, that is true. The wall. Keep the illegals out.”

7 a.m.
It’s not just voters from across the country visiting Washington to celebrate the inauguration of Donald Trump.

On the eve of the inauguration, Brexit leader Nigel Farage toasted the president-elect at a reception on the top floor of a hotel overlooking the White House.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant joined him on Thursday night, describing himself as the matchmaker between Trump and Farage.

Farage noted that in 2016, British voters chose to leave the European Union and American voters picked Trump. It said it would be a year remembered as a pivot point in history, and the crowd of lobbyists, Trump boosters and British political and media figures cheered.

Farage said he agreed with Trump’s assessment of himself as “Mr. Brexit plus-plus-plus.” He added that Trump is “the only person I’ve ever met in my life who makes me feel like an introvert.”

6:45 a.m.
Before dawn on Inauguration Day in Washington, only a few lights were at the White House residence, where President Barack Obama and his family have lived for the past eight years.

Klieg lights brightened the viewing stand from which incoming President Donald Trump will view the parade route later in the day.

Trump and his family were spending the night at Blair House, just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Lafayette Square outside the White House was fenced off with large metal barriers and security lines moved briskly to let outgoing White House staff and members of the media into the White House complex early in the morning.

6:35 a.m.
Americans eager to see the Donald Trump take the oath of office as the nation’s next president are starting to make their way through downtown Washington and onto the National Mall.

Dump trucks, police cars and National Guard soldiers and Washington D.C. police are manning street corners in the city’s downtown, blocking vehicle access for blocks around the Mall.

But there’s plenty of room on the sidewalks for those clutching engraved tickets for a seat to Trump’s inauguration, as well as those without who plan to watch from spots between the Capitol and the Washington monument.

The “red gate” ticket entrance opened to cheers before dawn from those who are braving the cold and waiting in line in the city’s East End neighborhood. Some in the crowd began a chant of “USA!” Others picked up “Make America Great Again” hats and other Trump gear from street vendors.

]]> 0 Clinton and former President Bill Clinton arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, for the inauguration of Donald Trump. (Rob Carr via AP, Pool)Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:22:28 +0000
At a glance: the swearing-in ceremony Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:59:04 +0000 • Before Friday’s swearing-in ceremony, President Obama and President-elect Trump will have a brief meeting at the White House and will proceed to the Capitol together. The ceremony is scheduled to begin between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m.

• Prelude – “The President’s Own,” by the U.S. Marine Band.

• Call to order by Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

• Readings and invocations by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York City; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Paula White-Cain, pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center.

• Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer delivers remarks.

• The Missouri State University Chorale performs.

• The vice-presidential oath of office is administered to Mike Pence by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

• The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs.

• The presidential oath of office is administered to Trump by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

• Inaugural address by President Trump.

• Readings and benediction by Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; the Rev. Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International.

• The national anthem is performed by Jackie Evancho.

– The Washington Post

]]> 0 Donald Trump, right, salutes as he arrives with his wife Melania Trump to the "Make America Great Again Welcome Concert" at the Lincoln Memorial, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:15:30 +0000
Signs of more avalanche survivors in Italy Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:23:31 +0000 FARINDOLA, Italy — An Italian firefighter says rescue crews have indications of other survivors under the rubble of avalanche-struck hotel in central Italy.

A first group of between six or eight survivors were located by rescuers earlier Friday. They had found an air pocket in the kitchen of the crushed Hotel Rigopiano in Italy’s snow-covered Abruzzo region.

Speaking to Sky TG24, firefighter Giuseppe Romano declined to confirm another five possible survivors. But he said, “Other people have responded to our signals.” About 30 people were believed trapped when the avalanche slammed into the hotel Wednesday afternoon.

Rescue crews located up to eight people alive in the kitchen on Friday, an incredible discovery that boosted spirits two days after the massive snow slide buried around 30 people in the resort.

There is some discrepancy in the number of people who have been rescued alive.

The ANSA news agency quotes the vice brigadier of Italy’s financial police, Marco Bini, as saying eight people were located alive in two separate operations Friday.

The deputy interior minister, Filippo Bubbico, says the number of survivors located is six. The civil protection operations chief had also confirmed six people located, two of whom — a woman and a boy — were already airlifted out.

The numbers have been fluid throughout the emergency, including exactly how many people are believed buried inside the Hotel Rigopiano, which was slammed by an avalanche Wednesday.

Video released by rescuers showed a boy, wearing blue snow pants and a matching ski shirt, emerging from the structure and crews mussing his hair in celebration.

Next was a woman with a long ponytail wearing red snow pants. “Brava Brava!” the rescuers cheered. The survivors appeared fully alert and walking on their own. Both were helped down to a stretcher for the helicopter ride out.

“This first news has obviously repaid all the rescuers’ efforts,” deputy interior minister Filippo Bubbico said.

First word of the discovery came at around 11 a.m., news met with exhilaration after at least four people had already been found dead since Thursday.

“We found five people alive. We’re pulling them out. Send us a helicopter,” a rescuer said over firefighters’ radio, overheard by Associated Press journalists who were making their way on foot toward the disaster site.

Later, the number rose to eight people, including two children, Italian news reports said.

Titi Postiglione, operations chief of the civil protection agency, confirmed six people were located, but the numbers were fluid: She said two had been extracted already and crews were working to get another four out of the rubble.

These survivors, she said “can give us a series of indications to help with our intervention plan, information to understand what happened and help direct the search.”

Rescue workers told RAI state television the survivors’ conditions were remarkably good, and that they had survived thanks to an air pocket in the kitchen. They were being flown by helicopter to area hospitals.

About 30 people were trapped inside the luxury Hotel Rigopiano when the avalanche hit on Wednesday afternoon, with two people initially surviving the devastation and calling out for help.

Search and rescue teams had maintained the hope of finding survivors even though the avalanche dumped up to five meters (17 feet) of snow on the hotel.

“We are hoping that the ceiling collapsed partially in some places and that someone remained underneath,” rescuer Lorenzo Gagliardi told SKY TG24.

Two bodies were recovered on the first day of searching and RAI state TV reported two more had been located but not yet removed.

The operations have been hampered by difficulty in accessing the remote hotel. Workers have been clearing a 5.5-mile road to bring in heavier equipment but it can handle only one-way traffic.

A convoy of rescue vehicles made slow progress to the hotel, blocked by snow piled t10 feet high in some places, fallen trees and rocks.

The first rescue teams had arrived on skis early Thursday, and firefighters were dropped in by helicopter. Snowmobiles were also being mobilized.

Days of heavy snowfall had knocked out electricity and phone lines in many central Italian towns and hamlets, and the hotel phones went down early Wednesday, just as the first of four powerful earthquakes struck the region.

It wasn’t clear if the quakes triggered the avalanche. But emergency responders said the force of the massive snow slide collapsed a wing of the hotel that faced the mountain and rotated another off its foundation, pushing it downhill.

One of the survivors reported that the guests had all checked out and were waiting for the road to be cleared to be able to leave. The snow plow scheduled for midafternoon never arrived, and the avalanche hit sometime around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation into the tragedy, and among the hypotheses being pursued is whether the avalanche threat wasn’t taken seriously enough, according to Italian media.

Farindola Mayor Ilario Lacchetta said the hotel had 24 guests, four of them children, and 12 employees were onsite at the time of the avalanche.

An Alpine rescue team was the first to arrive on cross-country skis after a seven-kilometer (more than 4-mile) journey that took two hours. They found Giampaolo Parete, a guest who escaped the avalanche when he went to his car to get something, and Fabio Salzetta, a hotel maintenance worker, in a car in the resort’s parking lot.

Parete, whose wife and two children remain among the missing, was taken to a hospital while Salzetta stayed behind with rescuers to help identify where guests might be buried and how crews could enter the buildings, rescuers said.

The mountainous region of central Italy has been struck by a series of quakes since August that destroyed homes and historic centers in dozens of towns and hamlets. A deadly quake in August killed nearly 300. No one died in strong aftershocks in October, largely because population centers had already been evacuated.

]]> 0 frame from video shows Italian firefighters extracting a boy alive from under snow and debris of an hotel that was hit by an avalanche on Wednesday, in Rigopiano, central Italy, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Italian Firefighters/ANSA via This frame from video shows Italian firefighters extracting a boy alive from under snow and debris of an hotel that was hit by an avalanche on Wednesday, in Rigopiano, central Italy, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Italian Firefighters/ANSA via AP))Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:40:33 +0000
Trumps, Obamas arrive at Capitol for swearing-in ceremony Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:46:40 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, have arrived at the Capitol for Trump’s inauguration.

Also arriving were Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and Trump’s wife, Melania.

Following the path of inaugurations past, Donald Trump earlier paid visits to church and the White House on Friday as the real estate mogul and reality television star who upended American politics prepared to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. His ascent puts Republicans in control of the White House for the first time in eight years.

“It all begins today!” Trump tweeted at daybreak, before attending a morning service with his family as light rain fell. “THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES – THE WORK BEGINS!”

Trump and his wife Melania then shuttled to the White House for the traditional private meeting of outgoing and incoming presidents and their spouses. Posing for photos on the North Portico, the couples exchanged hugs as Barack Obama chatted about the demands of protocol.

The Trumps and the Obamas traveled together in the presidential limousine for the short trip later to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony. According to the official schedule, the ceremony will begin with opening remarks by Sen. Roy Blunt, Inaugural Committee chairman, at 11:16 a.m. Trump is scheduled to take the oath of office at 11:47 a.m.

Ebullient Trump supporters flocked to the nation’s capital for the inaugural festivities, some wearing red hats emblazoned with his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. But in a sign of the deep divisions Trump sowed during his combative campaign, dozens of Democratic lawmakers were boycotting the swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill.

Supporters were lined up at security checkpoints before dawn to take their places in this quadrennial rite of democracy.

“I’m here for history,” said Kevin Puchalski, a 24-year-old construction worker who drove from Philadelphia. “This is the first president that I voted for that won.” His big hope: Trump builds that promised wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. “Keep the illegals out,” he said.

Protesters, too, were out early, some trying to block inaugural visitors from passing through security checkpoints, some wearing orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces. Police in riot gear were out in force.

Eleanor Goldfield, who helped organize the Disrupt J20 protest, said demonstrators hope to show they will not be silent throughout Trump’s presidency. She called Trump supporters “misguided, misinformed or just plain dangerous.”

Trump aides said the president-elect had been personally invested in crafting his inaugural address, a relatively brief 20-minute speech that is expected to center on his vision for what it means to be an American. Spokesman Sean Spicer said the address would be “less of an agenda and more of a philosophical document.”

Trump has pledged to upend some of Obama’s major domestic and national security policies, including repealing his signature health care law and building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. But he’s offered few details of how he plans to accomplish his agenda, often sending contradictory signals.

The three days of inaugural festivities kicked off Thursday. Trump left his Trump-branded jet in New York and flew to Washington in a government plane, saluting an Air Force officer as he descended the steps with his wife, Melania. He and the incoming vice president, Mike Pence, solemnly laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery before joining supporters for an evening concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

Trump’s son, Don Jr., told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that as the various festivities got underway, “the magnitude of it all” was at last sinking in. He pronounced his father “ready to take office.”

“We’re going to unify our country,” Trump said at the close of the two-hour concert featuring country star Toby Keith, soul’s Sam Moore and The Piano Guys. But not singer Jennifer Holliday: She backed out after an outcry from Trump critics.

With rain a possibility, the National Park Service announced that it was easing its “no umbrella” policy for Friday, allowing collapsible umbrellas along the parade route and on the National Mall.

The nation’s soon-to-be president joked about the chance of a downpour. “That’s OK,” Trump told campaign donors at an event Thursday night, “because people will realize it’s my real hair.”

“Might be a mess, but they’re going to see that it’s my real hair,” he said.

Whatever the weather, Trump supporters were looking ahead to the day.

Chris Lehmann, 55, a maintenance supervisor from Belmar, New Jersey, said: “I’m so excited, I’m like, on top of the world.”

Eleanor Haven, 83, of Alexander City, Alabama, was attending the festivities with her son, Scott Haven. The pair said they had never been to a political event before attending a Trump “thank you” tour rally in Alabama after the election and were looking forward to Friday’s celebration.

“We’re excited for changes in the country,” Scott Haven said.

Celebrities were weighing in from all parts of the globe. Matthew McConaughey, in London to promote movies, stressed a need for acceptance, saying, “The votes came in, the peaceful transfer of power should happen today and we all need to embrace that.” James Taylor, a vocal Trump critic, emailed a video postcard from his vacation in French Polynesia, saying that on the last day of the Obama administration, “it feels like it’s raining all over the world.”

On the eve of the inauguration, protesters and Trump supporters clashed outside a pro-Trump event Thursday night, with police using chemical spray to try control demonstrators outside the “DeploraBall.” The name was a play on a campaign remark by Hillary Clinton, who once referred to some Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”

All of the living American presidents were scheduled to attend the swearing in ceremony, except for 92-year-old George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week with pneumonia. His wife, Barbara, was also admitted to the hospital after falling ill. Trump tweeted his well-wishes to the Bushes, saying he was “looking forward to a speedy recovery.”

Clinton, Trump’s vanquished campaign rival, also planned to join dignitaries at Capitol Hill.

While Trump revels in a celebratory lunch with lawmakers and parade up Pennsylvania Avenue — passing his newly opened Washington hotel — workers at the White House will set about the frantic process of moving out the Obamas and preparing the residence for its new occupants. Moving trucks were on standby Friday morning at the White House.

Obama, who will continue to live in Washington, was leaving town with his family after the inauguration for a vacation in Palm Springs, California. He planned to address a farewell gathering of staff at Joint Base Andrews before boarding his last flight on the military aircraft that ferries presidents on their travels.

Obama began his day with a final visit to the Oval Office and goodbye tweets echoing a farewell letter he had penned to the American people.

“I won’t stop,” he tweeted. “I’ll be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by your voices of truth and justice, good humor, and love.”


Associated Press writers Nancy Benac, Ben Nuckols, Alanna Durkin Richer, Jessica Gresko, Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

]]> 0 Donald Trump's children, from left, Tiffany, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump arrive for the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:21:21 +0000
Backlog slows license reinstatement for Mainers convicted of driving drunk Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — Mainers trying to have their driver’s licenses reinstated after drunken-driving suspensions are waiting an average of five additional weeks because of a paperwork backlog in the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a lawmaker who is trying to fix the problem.

Sen. Joyce Maker is pushing a bill, L.D. 134, that would streamline the process so people don’t lose their jobs or face other unfair hardships because of the delays, she said.

Gov. Paul LePage, meanwhile, wants to move responsibility for counseling and evaluating drunken-driving offenders from the DHHS to the Secretary of State’s Office.

“While we all know that operating under the influence is a serious crime, once the time has been served and the requirements have been met, the government shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way of individuals trying to better themselves and move on with their lives,” Maker said.

Maker, a Republican from Calais, said she was notified of the backlog by a constituent. He had paid his fine, served his sentence and completed the mandatory DHHS Driver Education and Evaluation Program, but is still waiting for the department to send confirmation of his participation to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Maker said such delays in reinstating licenses could result in the loss of a job for anyone who needs a license for work or just needs to get to work.

“My constituent had a job on Jan. 4, and without his license, he couldn’t take it,” Maker said.

Under Maine law, a person charged with operating under the influence faces an immediate 30-day administrative license suspension. If convicted of a first offense, he or she faces a minimum 150-day driver’s license suspension and a fine of no less than $500. Subsequent convictions result in longer suspensions, higher fines and jail time. In Maine, as in most states, a driver with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08 percent is considered under the influence, although those driving with lower blood-alcohol levels or impaired by drugs can also be charged.

To regain driving privileges after a conviction, a driver 21 or older must complete the state’s 20-hour Driver Education and Evaluation Program, DEEP, which is designed to reduce the person’s likelihood of reoffending.


Maker’s bill would allow the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees Maine’s driver’s license system, to issue a provisional license based on documents showing the applicant has completed the OUI education program. The office would not need to wait for formal certification from the DHHS. Maker’s bill would pertain only to first-time offenders, according to a summary of the legislation.

The delays are being attributed to an office staffing shortage caused by illness and injury, according to a copy of a message by Roberta Mullen, a behavioral health intervention manager in the DHHS Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, that was provided to the Portland Press Herald by an anonymous source.

“My clinical staff has been decimated,” Mullen wrote. “The DEEP receives over 200 client cases per month for review, with one staff member in the office it’s impossible to keep up.”

DHHS spokeswoman Samantha Edwards confirmed Thursday that there is a backlog. She said in an email that the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services is tapping clinicians from other divisions of the DHHS to try to clear it, but the work is complex.

“Each case must be thoroughly reviewed before the individual can be deemed successful in completing the program (and) thus be given approval to once again pilot a motor vehicle,” Edwards wrote.

LePage wants to take management of the OUI education program out of the DHHS. The governor’s two-year state budget proposal would transfer about $1.6 million of the program’s funding to the Secretary of State’s Office, and suggests that office would then be responsible for overseeing the program. The program has seven employees, including office staff and two substance abuse specialists.

Edwards said DHHS wanted to transfer the program “because DEEP is an education program for individuals who have lost their licenses due to OUI conviction. Given the secretary of state’s responsibility for qualifying and licensing drivers, this program makes more sense under the purview of that department.”


Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said the backlog is a relatively new problem that, under current law, he can do nothing to solve.

“It’s becoming a real problem for some folks,” Dunlap wrote in an email to the Press Herald. “They get convicted of OUI, pay all their fines, wait out a suspension period, and go through substance abuse counseling. The holdup here is that we can’t reinstate their licenses until DHHS, through the drug education and evaluation program (DEEP), certifies that they’ve completed the required counseling.”

Dunlap said the backlog is “a growing problem, and a bit of a mystery, because historically DEEP has been a great office to work with.”

Dunlap said he supports Maker’s bill as a short-term fix. He didn’t, however, understand why the LePage administration wants to transfer DEEP to his office. Substance abuse counseling is more a function for DHHS, he said.

“We would prefer to have some separation,” Dunlap wrote. “I’m not sure what that’s about.”

Maker’s measure has been submitted as an emergency bill, which would require two-thirds support of the Legislature for passage, but would take effect sooner than if filed as a conventional bill. The bill also calls for automatic repeal on Dec. 31.

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

Twitter: thisdog

]]> 0, 19 Jan 2017 23:18:07 +0000
Nation’s capital abuzz for Trump’s inauguration Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:26:36 +0000 President-elect Donald Trump salutes as he arrives with his wife, Melania Trump, at the "Make America Great Again Welcome Concert" at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump salutes as he arrives with his wife, Melania Trump, at the “Make America Great Again Welcome Concert” at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday. Associated Press/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump arrived in Washington with flair on Thursday, formally launching the inaugural festivities that will lead to his swearing in as the nation’s 45th president on Friday.

Kicking off three days of carefully orchestrated proceedings infused with pomp and guided by precision and protocol, the president-elect allowed himself to veer off script and revel in the moment.

Trump and his extended family signaled a new era in the country’s governance as they stepped off a military plane at Joint Base Andrews with understated glamour. They headed directly to his Pennsylvania Avenue property, the Trump International Hotel, where the president-elect irreverently toasted his Cabinet nominees.

“We have by far the highest IQ of any cabinet ever assembled,” Trump said in a characteristically grandiose declaration before several hundred supporters, lawmakers and allies at an official luncheon.

Trump narrated his journey and the day’s festivities on Twitter. “On my way!” Trump tweeted as he headed to Arlington National Cemetery, where he and Vice President-elect Mike Pence solemnly laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

During the brief ceremony, Trump and Pence stood with their hands over their hearts, as a bugler played taps. Neither man spoke before departing.

Trump then headed to a “Welcome Concert” at the Lincoln Memorial, where thousands of supporters were waiting. He took his seat shortly before 5 p.m., offering a thumbs-up to the crowd as he took a seat beside his family and listened to a medley of country hits performed on a stage set up on the base of the memorial. The seated statue of Lincoln was visible in the background.

Trump later stood and applauded enthusiastically as country signer Lee Greenwood was announced and started singing the first verse of his iconic hit, “God Bless the U.S.A.”

After Greenwood’s performance, Trump put his arm around his shoulders as the crowd started chanting, “U.S.A.”

Another headliner, the rock band 3 Doors Down, followed. The band opened with a song, “Broken,” the lyrics of which echoed an appeal Trump made to disenchanted voters who felt forgotten by Washington: “This is the call to the broken/To all the ones who been thrown away/This is the call to the broken/Stand up and take back your world today.”

Country star Toby Keith was the night’s best known act.

After starting with two songs with patriotic themes, “American Soldier,” and “Made in America,” Keith played “Beer for My Horses.” He changed a line in the drinking song to be more appropriate to the occasion: “We’ll all get smashed at the inaugural celebration.”

The event began on a discordant note, as actor Jon Voight told the crowd that Trump had prevailed in the “grueling” election against Hillary Clinton despite a lot of negativity.

Flags adorned with Donald Trump's visage are for sale Thursday along the Inaugural Parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Inauguration events kicked off Thursday with a concert headlined by Toby Keith at the Lincoln Memorial.

Flags adorned with Donald Trump’s visage are for sale Thursday along the Inaugural Parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Inauguration events kicked off Thursday with a concert headlined by Toby Keith at the Lincoln Memorial. Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana

“We’ve been witness to a barrage of propaganda that left us all breathless with anticipation not knowing if God could reverse all the negative lies against Mr. Trump, whose only desire was to make America great again,” Voight said.

Voight called Trump “an honest and good man who will work for all the people, no matter their creed or color.”

As Trump put the finishing touches on the inaugural address he will deliver from the steps of the Capitol after taking the oath of office at noon Friday, Pence and the incoming administration were preparing to assume control of the federal government.

Addressing reporters on Thursday from the transition team’s Washington headquarters, Pence said, “It is a momentous day before a historic day.”

The vice president-elect noted that all 21 Cabinet nominations have been made and that 536 so-called beachhead officials are ready to report for duty at federal departments and agencies.

President Obama’s appointees packed up their belongings and vacated their offices Thursday, although the Trump team is temporarily retaining 50 of them in critical positions throughout the government to ensure continuity until Trump can more fully staff his administration.

“Our job is to be ready on Day One,” Pence said. “The American people can be confident that we will be … It’s going to be a very humbling and moving day for the president-elect his family and for mine. But let me tell you, we are all ready to go to work.”

While the bureaucrats-to-be were working, Trump supporters from around the country who had descended on Washington were partying at the Lincoln Memorial. Throngs of people extended down the reflecting pool and toward the Washington Monument as the assembly of military bands and recording artists performed for the president-elect.

The concert served as a reminder of Trump’s limited popularity. Despite his electoral vote victory, a majority of voters cast their ballot for someone else in last November’s election. Trump is the least-popular incoming president in at least four decades, with 40 percent of Americans holding a favorable impression of him and 54 percent holding an unfavorable one, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this week.

Trump struggled to attract A-list talent to perform at his festivities, with such entertainers as Elton John, Celine Dion and the makeup-wearing rock band KISS publicly turning down invitations. One artist announced to perform at the concert last week – Broadway performer Jennifer Holliday – dropped out the following day, saying she had heard concerns from the gay community about the message her participation would send.

]]> 0 adorned with President-elect Donald Trump's visage are for sale Thursday along the Inaugural Parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Inauguration events kicked off Thursday with a concert headlined by Toby Keith at the Lincoln Memorial.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:41:55 +0000
Sheriff’s office investigates swastikas on barn in Standish Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:48:09 +0000 The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is investigating two swastikas painted on an abandoned barn in Standish.

A Standish woman, who does not want to be identified, notified the sheriff’s office on Jan. 12 about the swastikas – the emblem of the German Nazi Party.

She took photographs of the symbols, which were painted on the side of a red barn within a few feet of Richville Road – part of Route 114.

Deputy Donald Brown investigated, but found out that the property at 1193 Richville Road was unoccupied and for sale. The owners live out of state.

“He (Brown) spoke to all the neighbors, he looked at tax maps and he contacted the Realtor,” Capt. Scott Stuart said late Thursday evening. “He certainly put a lot of effort into this investigation, but it’s complex because the owner is not local. We can’t just go there and paint over it ourselves.”

Stuart said the realtor told Brown that she had been led to believe that the owner’s grandchildren were going to paint over the swastikas.

The realtor said the hate symbols would be covered up because the property could not be shown to a potential buyer if they were still on the barn, according to Stuart.

Stuart said the swastikas should be removed as soon as possible. “This appears to be an isolated incident. I don’t think they were directed at anyone in particular,” he said.

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

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:53:35 +0000
Augusta will accept donation of the Howard Hill property Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:13:49 +0000 AUGUSTA — City councilors voted unanimously Thursday night to accept the donation of the 164-acre Howard Hill property from the Kennebec Land Trust.

Terms of the agreement conveying the land, which provides a scenic backdrop to the State House, specify that it shall never be developed or subdivided, shall have its natural resources protected, and shall remain open to the public.

The deal to transfer the property could close as soon as Friday.

roadblocks on way

“This is just a tremendous example of public-private partnership,” said Augusta resident Michael Seitzinger, a former land trust board member. “The result here for the people of the city of Augusta, the entire capital community, and the entire state of Maine, is outstanding.”

Gov. Paul LePage and members of his administration, over the last year, have accused the Land for Maine’s Future program of overpaying for properties, and specifically cited Howard Hill as an example.

The Kennebec Land Trust bought the land for about $925,000 from local attorney Sumner Lipman in 2015, with plans to give the property to the city.

The land trust initially was expected to use $337,500 in Land for Maine’s Future money to help pay for the purchase. However, five of six members of the Land for Maine’s Future Board, all of whom were either appointed by LePage last year or work for him, voted in October to reduce the state’s contribution to the project to $163,500, expressing concerns about the accuracy of the roughly $1 million appraisal of the property. The property is assessed by the city, for tax purposes, at $171,000.

Land trust officials have defended what they pay for such properties, stating they have the properties professionally appraised, based upon their “highest and best use,” or what their value would be if they were to be developed.

The trust took out a loan to close the funding gap so the project could proceed.

The originally proposed terms of the agreement with the city stated the privately funded land trust would give the city, in addition to the land, a $100,000 endowment to help the city form a plan for the property and to maintain it.

However, since the state reduced its funding of the purchase, the land trust proposed to modify its agreement with the city.

Instead, the land trust, according to City Manager William Bridgeo, will give the city $25,000, will be credited $7,500 it spent to have a forest management plan done for the property, and will pay the city the remaining $67,500 in the next two years. City officials said they accept the arrangement and have no doubt the land trust will pay the remaining money as promised.

“Some roadblocks were placed along the way, and you folks overcame them,” Mayor David Rollins told land trust officials. “This will be a treasure for the city of Augusta, one of our collection of gems.”

Theresa Kerchner, executive director of the Winthrop-based land trust, said people in the area have suggested for decades that the land needed to be preserved.

historic property

Kerchner said numerous individuals, businesses and foundations donated money so the trust could buy the land.

The property is named for the family of Capt. James Howard, one of the founders of Augusta. It was later owned by local publishing magnate William Howard Gannett, who in the 1890s bought some 450 acres, including Howard Hill, where he created Ganneston Park. The park included gardens, ponds, carriage paths and trails he opened to the public. The property, tucked between developed parcels in Augusta and extending to the Augusta-Hallowell city boundary, provides sweeping views of the area, including the Maine State House dome.

City officials said a plan will need to be developed to provide public access points to the property.

Among the limited existing access points is an old carriage road where Ganneston Drive comes to a dead end.

Kerchner said the land trust already has had discussions with the developer of the formerly state-owned Stevens School campus in Hallowell, Matt Morrill, about also providing public access to Howard Hill from the proposed development there.

Terms of the proposed agreement require the city to complete a conservation plan within a year of receiving the property.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 ors at:

]]> 0, 19 Jan 2017 22:22:57 +0000
Agnew prosecutor George Beall dies of brain cancer at 79 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:05:12 +0000 George Beall, the federal prosecutor for Maryland whose supervision of a political corruption investigation forced the 1973 resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, died Sunday at his home in Naples, Florida. He was 79.

The cause was brain cancer, said his wife, Carolyn Campbell Beall.

Beall (pronounced “bell”) was the scion of a prominent family of Maryland Republicans. His father and brother, J. Glenn Beall and J. Glenn Beall Jr., respectively, served in the U.S. Senate.

And Beall, who was the U.S. attorney for Maryland from 1970 to 1975, was an appointee of President Nixon, a Republican.

He stepped into a job with a long-standing tradition of prosecuting public officeholders, among them Sen. Daniel Brewster, D-Md., Rep. Thomas Johnson, D-Md., and Jesse Baggett, the chairman of the Prince George’s County Commission. Beall vowed to continue that tradition.

“Corruption of public officials is heinous, abominable, and has to be ferreted out,” the 32-year-old Beall told The Washington Post in 1970.

In Agnew’s case, the investigation began with a report of a kickback scheme in suburban Baltimore County, where Agnew had been elected county executive in 1962. According to information uncovered by prosecutors, it had been a practice for some time that public officeholders demanded sub rosa payments from engineers and builders for government construction jobs.

Agnew, who was elected Maryland governor in 1966 and picked by Nixon for his vice president in 1968, had accepted such payments, prosecutors said.

Eventually Agnew agreed to a deal in which he would plead no contest to a single charge of tax evasion and resign the vice presidency, which he did in October 1973. He also was fined $10,000. Rep. Gerald Ford, R-Mich., replaced Agnew and then became president after Nixon resigned in August 1974.

The Agnew case was the capstone of Beall’s prosecutorial tenure. The Post said in 1977 that it gave Beall “a national reputation as a fearless political big game hunter.” But it did not endear him to Republican regulars, who weren’t bothered by the bribery charges.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:05:12 +0000
Trump’s treasury nominee grilled by senators Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:04:45 +0000 WASHINGTON — Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin defended his ties to offshore business entities and his management of a controversial California bank during a testy confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Speaking before the Senate Finance Committee, Mnuchin said businesses in the Cayman Islands and Anguilla revealed in his financial disclosures were not used for his personal benefit but served nonprofits and pensions.

“In no way did I use offshore entities to avoid U.S. taxes,” Mnuchin said. “I can assure you I pay all my taxes as was required.”

A memo compiled by Democratic committee staffers obtained by The Washington Post showed Mnuchin initially omitted some of those entities — as well as more than $100 million in personal assets — from his nomination paperwork. Mnuchin has revised the documents.

According to the memo, Mnuchin submitted answers Dec. 19 to a standard committee questionnaire seeking information about his financial and business interests. At the time, Mnuchin verified that those responses were accurate and complete.

Mnuchin at first failed to disclose his role as director of Dune Capital International, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, the document shows. He also holds positions in nine other business entities and three trusts, including one connected to Sears chief executive Edward Lampert, Mnuchin’s former college roommate.

According to the memo, Mnuchin characterized the missing information as inadvertent mistakes, and he updated his answers to the committee’s questionnaire on Saturday.

Mnuchin, a veteran Wall Street investor, has also come under fire for his 2009 purchase of failed subprime mortgage lender IndyMac from the federal government. Mnuchin renamed the bank OneWest and ran it for six years. During that time, he said, the bank modified over 100,000 of the country’s most troubled loans and saved thousands of jobs in the process.

“I have been maligned as taking advantage of others’ hardships in order to earn a buck,” Mnuchin told lawmakers Thursday. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mnuchin purchased OneWest for $1.6 billion and sold the bank to CIT Group in 2015 for $3.4 billion

The hearing began with a sharply combative tone before Mnuchin even began speaking — an unusual departure for what is typically a staid and wonkish committee. Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, decried “stupid arguments” against Mnuchin’s qualifications to manage the nation’s finances and accused Democrats of obstructing President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees. Ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., shot back by accusing Mnuchin of using loopholes in international tax law to shield millions of dollars from taxation.

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, Kan., then interjected with a suggestion that Wyden take a Valium, an attempt at what he called a “pinprick” of levity. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, objected to the remark, forcing Hatch to gavel the committee to order.

Mnuchin is one of several Cabinet nominees facing a rocky path to confirmation. Democrats have seized on the vast wealth amassed by Trump’s advisers — not just Mnuchin but also his picks to lead the Commerce, Education and State departments, among others — as undermining the working-class support that fueled the president-elect’s surprise victory.

“The Treasury secretary ought to be somebody who works on behalf of all Americans, including those who are still waiting for the economic recovery to show up in their communities,” Wyden said. “When I look at Mr. Mnuchin’s background, it’s a stretch to find evidence he’d be that kind of Treasury secretary.”

Mnuchin attended Yale University and began his career at Goldman Sachs, where his father was a senior partner, before leaving the investment bank to form his own private equity fund, Dune Capital Management. After purchasing IndyMac, Mnuchin became a Hollywood financier, backing well-known films such as “Avatar.” He has not previously served in government.

At several points during his hearing, Mnuchin appeared stung by the sharp questioning from lawmakers. During an exchange with Brown over his role in foreclosures, Mnuchin pushed back at the senator.

“If you know the answer, why did you ask me?” Mnuchin said. “It seems to me with all due respect that you just want to shoot questions at me.”

]]> 0 Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin gathers his notes during a break after four hours of questions on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:26:58 +0000
Route 24 bridge will be gone in 2 weeks Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:55:44 +0000 RICHMOND — The blows to the railroad bridge that crosses Route 24 have been fairly frequent and pretty hard, but they won’t be coming for much longer.

The bridge, located just north of where routes 24 and 197 merge, will be removed by the end of the month.

Earlier this week, traffic on Route 24 was slowed while Maine Department of Transportation workers removed the ties and the rails from the bridge using a boom truck for lifting the pieces out. They placed barricades across the tracks at each end of the bridge to keep people who might be on the tracks from falling onto the roadway below.

Starting Monday, the structure that spans the state highway will be removed in pieces, cut by shears and then scrapped.

Jeff Pitcher, a Maine Department of Transportation transportation manager and Federal Railway Administration track safety inspector for Maine, said the structure was built in 1903.

In the last few years, it has been damaged and dented by several hits.

“One of them was pretty significant,” Pitcher said. An excavator on the back of a truck heading north struck the bridge and damaged it. As it is, he said, it could not handle train traffic and would have to be repaired before a train could cross it.

The rail line runs from downtown Brunswick along the Kennebec River to Waterville, Pitcher said, but it’s not in use. In Augusta, the line is interrupted by a parking lot, where gravel has covered the rails.

During its service, both passenger and freight trains used the route. It now belongs to the state of Maine.

Despite its “low clearance” signs and flashing lights advertising its 11-foot-2-inch height, the bridge has been a target of tall vehicles.

Richmond Town Manager Janet Smith said town officials have been asking for the structure’s removal for years.

“There have been a lot of hits in just the short time I’ve been here,” Smith said, and by a wide variety of vehicles – box trucks, recreational vehicles and the excavator.

The detour, which will direct traffic onto Ferry Road and around the removal site, required the approval of Richmond selectmen, which they granted at a meeting Wednesday.

Otherwise, Smith said, the detour would have to be on state roads, and that would take people 20 miles out of their way.

“That’s not fair to Richmond residents,” she said.

The state sought a closure for five days, but the work is not expected to take that long, she said.

Transportation department spokesman Ted Talbot said the removal doesn’t have to be permanent.

The Maine Rail Group has been lobbying to bring passenger rail service back to central Maine using the line that connects Brunswick to Augusta and Waterville.

“We own the tracks,” Talbot said, “so we have the ability, if those tracks come back into service, to accommodate that.”

If it is replaced, Pitcher said, it will have to be raised about 15 inches.

Electronic signs have been posted alerting drivers to the pending Route 24 closure. On Thursday, Talbot said the wording on the sign had been changed to urge drivers to follow the detour.

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

]]> 0 railroad bridge over Route 24 in Richmond will be torn down starting Monday after years of being hit by vehicles too tall to pass under it.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:37:11 +0000
Trump keeps agenda for Day One a secret Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:44:39 +0000 In rally after rally, and speech upon speech, Donald Trump built a verbal skyscraper of campaign promises about what he would do on his first day in the White House.

Begin building a wall at the nation’s southern border. End the “war on coal.” Label China a currency manipulator. The list went on and on.

But now, as Trump prepares to take the oath of office Friday, his Day One executive actions and policy plans are a closely held secret, another prop in the Donald Trump show waiting to be unveiled with his trademark flourish and fanfare. And, his aides are playing down how much will be done during that first day, while also sending conflicting signals about whether the real work of governing will begin Friday, when Trump officially becomes president, or Monday, his first full workday in the White House.

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump will probably sign four or five executive actions on Friday, mainly focused on logistics and government operations, with more coming Monday.

Asked Thursday about Trump’s coming executive actions, Spicer declined to give specifics, but he mentioned Obama’s health-care law, the fight against the Islamic State and immigration as “key issues” important to Trump.

undoing executive orders

“He is committed to not just Day One, but Day Two, Day Three, of enacting an agenda of real change,” he told reporters. “And I think that you’re gonna see that in the days and weeks to come.”

Regardless of what happens on Day One, advisers to the president-elect and others close to the transition process say Trump will act quickly in the early days of his administration. His initial plans are to undo many of President Barack Obama’s executive actions and begin rolling back regulations, especially those he believes are financially burdensome. At least to start, the advisers said, he will focus more on unraveling the past eight years of the outgoing administration than on a new Trump vision.

Several advisers used the word “aggressive” to describe Trump’s early actions, with another predicting “a tsunami.” The plans are still being drafted and tweaked, in a last-minute effort that spans the transition team, including the legal department, policy shop, legislative team and communications operation. The effort is being spearheaded by Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser.

One said to expect actions undoing aspects of Obama’s health-care policy in the first wave of signings and added that Trump will probably reinstate the “Mexico City” policy, first implemented under President Ronald Reagan, that basically prevents groups receiving U.S. foreign aid from performing or promoting abortion services.

Trump’s promises both on the campaign trail and since the election have set high expectations among his supporters for what he will do in the first days and weeks of his presidency. A failure to deliver likely will be seen as a setback.

promised quick action

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a member of Trump’s transition team, said that when Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with congressional Republicans earlier this month, he offered them a simple message: “That President-elect Trump is going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade and go into the Oval Office with a stack of papers on the desk and start signing them to roll back what we call Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions.”

Trump aides have yet to clarify, however, how many of his first moves will be actual executive actions that will take effect immediately and how many will be grand proclamations that may take time to fully implement.

Senate leaders, meanwhile, hope to confirm several of his Cabinet nominees as early as Friday, especially those filling national security posts, including retired Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security and retired Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense.

A speech Trump delivered in October in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – at the time intended to be his closing argument to voters – will serve as a blueprint for his initial policy prescriptions, according to his aides. There, in the shadow of the Civil War battlefield, Trump promised on his first day in office more than a dozen actions, ranging from the less likely – proposing a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress – to the more plausible- withdrawing from and beginning to renegotiate key trade deals.

]]> 0 Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump appear at a pre-Inaugural "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration" at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:29:06 +0000
Right-to-work proposal clears N.H. state Senate Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:26:27 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — Right-to-work legislation that targets unions cleared an early hurdle Thursday in the New Hampshire legislature, winning approval from the state Senate.

The bill would bar unions from requiring nonmembers to pay dues or fees. Supporters describe the measure as pro-worker and pro-business, while opponents say it will weaken unions and their collective bargaining power.

“Unions are good for New Hampshire; they’re good for the people,” Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro said in a passionate speech opposing the bill.

Senators also passed a bill removing the licensing requirement to carry a concealed gun. The same bill passed last session but was vetoed by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat. This year, it’s likely to pass the House and be signed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. It would mean anyone who can legally own a gun can carry it concealed.

Right to work is a perennial issue at the Statehouse and has, historically, struggled to pass even Republican-led chambers. But supporters see a fresh opportunity this year with Sununu in office. A national push by outside organizations is underway to pass similar bills in other Republican-led states.

Several senators noted the repetitive nature of the debate. Republican Sen. Andy Sanborn compared being a right-to-work supporter to Boston Red Sox fans who waited years for a World Series victory. Democratic Sen. Donna Soucy said the debate felt like the movie “Groundhog Day.”

“We’ve had this debate over and over again,” she said. “And yet I’m fascinated to this day, people still ask, ‘Well, what does right to work mean?”‘

Federal statistics show about 9.4 percent of New Hampshire residents are union members. Public employees such as teachers and state workers make up the bulk of them.

Many, but not all, unions charge “agency fees” to nonmembers for the costs of representation and other collective bargaining benefits. If the bill passes, it would ban that practice.

Passing the bill would be one tool to help New Hampshire attract more jobs and businesses, Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said. He challenged opponents who said lawmakers should instead focus on lowering energy costs and training workers for available jobs.

“To reject right to work because we think we should be focusing on something else totally misses the ball,” he said.

Democrats pointed out that no companies have publicly declared they will move to New Hampshire if the bill passes.

Seven senators declared conflicts of interest related to the bill, such as union membership or serving on city councils or town selectboards, but still cast votes, some for and some against. Democratic Sen. Scott McGilvray is the president of the National Education Association, the state’s largest union.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:26:27 +0000
Tesla avoids recall in crash involving Autopilot Fri, 20 Jan 2017 01:50:51 +0000 WASHINGTON — U.S. safety regulators have closed an investigation into a fatal crash involving electric car maker Tesla Motors’ Autopilot system without seeking a recall, but they criticized the way the company markets the semi-autonomous driving feature.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the system had no safety defects at the time of the May 7 crash in Florida, and that it was primarily designed to prevent rear-end collisions, spokesman Bryan Thomas said Thursday. Investigators also reviewed a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in which two people were injured, as well as dozens of other crashes involving Autopilot in which air bags were deployed, Thomas said.

Tesla won’t be fined, but the agency criticized Tesla for calling the system Autopilot.

The probe began June 28, nearly two months after a driver using Autopilot in a Tesla Model S died when it failed to spot a tractor-trailer crossing the car’s path on a highway in Williston, Florida, near Gainesville.

Tesla’s Autopilot system uses cameras, radar and computers to detect objects and automatically brake if the car is about to hit something. It also can steer the car to keep it centered in its lane. The company said that before Autopilot can be used, drivers must acknowledge that it’s an “assist feature” that requires both hands on the wheel at all times. Drivers also must be prepared to take over at any time, Tesla has said.

The lack of a recall is good news for Tesla because the agency is either blaming the crash on human error or it doesn’t see the recall as necessary because Tesla software updates have already addressed the problem, said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. “Either one reflects well on Tesla,” he said.

But the agency’s findings are likely to influence how automakers market semi-autonomous systems. Just about every auto company has or is working on similar systems as they move toward self-driving cars.

The May 7 crash killed former Navy Seal Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio. Tesla, which collects data from its cars via the internet, said at the time that the cameras on Brown’s Model S sedan failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and that neither the car nor Brown applied the brakes.

The closure of the investigation without a recall “helps clarify that cars are still supposed to be driven by attentive people, and if people behind the wheel aren’t attentive, it’s not the technology’s fault,” Brauer said. That will help avoid the stigma that the technology causes accidents, he said.

Thomas highlighted two conclusions from the investigation. First, that advanced automated driving systems still require “continual and full attention of a driver” who should be prepared to take action. And second, that manufacturers need to pay attention to how drivers actually use the technology, not just how they’re supposed to use it, and to design their vehicles “with the inattentive driver in mind.”

Tesla said in a statement that it appreciated NHTSA’s thoroughness in reaching its conclusion.

In July, investigators asked Tesla for information on how Autopilot works at intersections with crossing traffic. They also asked Tesla to describe how the system detects “compromised or degraded” signals from cameras and other sensors and how such problems are communicated to drivers.

When Tesla released Autopilot in the fall of 2015, some safety advocates questioned whether the Palo Alto, California-based company and NHTSA allowed the public access to the system before testing was finished. The company acknowledged “beta testing” the system on cars driving on public roads.

Consumer Reports magazine called on Tesla to drop the “Autopilot” name because it can give drivers too much trust in their car’s ability to drive itself. The influential magazine urged Tesla to disconnect the automatic steering system until it’s updated to make sure a driver’s hands stay on the wheel at all times.

In September, Tesla updated Autopilot software to rely more on radar sensors and less on cameras. The update also disabled the automatic steering if drivers don’t keep both hands on the wheel.

]]> 0 Navy Seal Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was killed last May in Florida when this Tesla Model S crashed into a turning tractor-trailer while in self-driving mode.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:09:22 +0000
Manchester school begins testing air quality, but only certain rooms Fri, 20 Jan 2017 01:30:04 +0000 MANCHESTER — Air quality testing of select rooms began Thursday at Manchester Elementary School, although several parents continued to express concern that the entire school isn’t being tested for mold.

In an email to parents Thursday afternoon supplied to the Kennebec Journal, Principal Janet Delmar said she was providing an update and a copy of the agreement with Air Quality Management Services, Inc. in the “spirit of transparency.”

Delmar said she will send the test results report to parents when the school receives it, and it will be available in the school’s office.

She said the heating and ventilation units, as well as other air handling systems, also will be checked to ensure they are operating properly.


“This has been a top priority for a very long time and will continue to be,” Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said. “We’re working and acting as quickly as we possibly can.”

During Wednesday night’s Regional School Unit 38 board meeting, more than 20 parents spoke out against the way the district and school administration handled the mold problem from the time it was first discovered in October to when the basement and three classrooms were remediated and cleaned in late December.

“They should’ve let us know about the mold earlier than they did,” said Stephanie Garofalo, a parent of a 6-year-old who has experienced wheezing, coughing fits and headaches since September.

Other parents said the way the district communicated – two emails, on Nov. 28 and Jan. 4 – was “unacceptable,” “poor” and “inexcusable.”

While one parent said testing select rooms is a starting point, Jeremy Payne, who has three children at the school, said it’s another misstep and not nearly enough to satisfy parents.

“Rather than acquiescing to the requests of concerned families, the school has chosen to go it alone,” Payne said via email. “If we find out in a matter of weeks or months that some rooms that weren’t part of this initial testing do indeed have mold, and we’ve exposed our children to an unsafe environment during that time, should we be satisfied?”


The district held a meeting at Manchester Elementary School last week to shed some light on the process that took place last year and to answer questions.

Multiple requests were made during that meeting that the entire school be tested, so Payne is unsure why that isn’t happening.

“They easily could’ve indicated last night they’ve heard the community’s concerns loud and clear and would expand the testing to cover the whole school,” Payne said.

The testing plan was signed by Curt Morse, the district’s director of operations and transportation on Tuesday, the day before the school board meeting. The plan called for testing the air quality in three additional classrooms, two hallways and the gymnasium and stage at a cost of $1,630.

The test also included carpet vacuum samples of the three classrooms to determine the level of mold in carpet dust.


The agreement states the final report will be provided to the school within 10 to 15 business days after testing, with interim results provided when available.

Wolfrom said the important thing is to communicate with parents as soon as the district knows anything about Thursday’s testing.

“Curt has asked the (air quality testing) company to let us know if there is any immediate danger, like we requested during the last tests,” Wolfrom said.

Payne said selectively choosing which rooms to test doesn’t make any sense.

He said there are several grades that have multiple classrooms, and it’s wrong to assume just because one room is clean, the other room would also be clean.

“This assumption would defy logic,” Payne said.

Wolfrom declined to say whether the district plans to continue testing the remainder of the school.

Rather, she said it will await the results of this test and follow the advice of the experts.

“The plan would be to first meet with the facilities committee, and at this point, we’ll have to consult with them every step of the way,” the superintendent said. “It takes time to get those people together, but we’ll do it as timely as possible, as we have always done.”


Mold is a naturally occurring, necessary part of the environment that can be found everywhere, the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council states on its website.

Symptoms of mold exposure are allergy-like, including coughing, wheezing and nasal stuffiness, according to an allergist and immunologist at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.

During Wednesday’s public meeting, parents spoke of symptoms their children have exhibited over the last year, including nagging coughs, headaches and other unexplained illnesses, and several teachers talked about problems they have had in their classrooms.

There are no federal health standards for mold, but the state uses indoor air quality standards from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a guide for air quality, David Heidrich, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said via email.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

]]> 0 Donna Wolfrom, left, speaks Wednesday beside board Chairwoman Terri Watson during an RSU 38 board meeting where parents and teachers expressed concern about mold at Manchester Elementary School.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:49:33 +0000
Taking a deeper look at the health of former President George H.W. Bush Fri, 20 Jan 2017 01:12:18 +0000 Former President George H.W. Bush is being treated for pneumonia in intensive care at a Houston hospital where doctors are evaluating him before removing a breathing tube.

His underlying health problems include vascular parkinsonism, a rare syndrome that mimics Parkinson’s disease. The 92-year-old Bush also broke a vertebra in 2015 and has used a motorized scooter or a wheelchair in recent years. Some answers to common questions about his health:

Q: When does a pneumonia patient need a breathing tube?

A: When a patient is not getting enough oxygen in the blood, doctors will insert a soft plastic breathing tube into the windpipe and connect the patient to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The patient is usually sedated because inserting the tube is uncomfortable.

“It means it’s a really bad pneumonia and is certainly life-threatening,” said Dr. Michael D. Schwartz, a pulmonologist and critical care doctor at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado. Doctors at the patient’s bedside “believe this person is likely to perish without this type of life support.”

Q: When can the breathing tube come out?

A: The longer a patient has a breathing tube, the higher the risk of a secondary infection. So when an improving patient can follow simple commands and has a strong enough cough, doctors will remove the tube and let the sedation wear off.

Coming off sedation can bring on delirium, especially for elderly patients, so doctors will monitor whether the patient is agitated and disoriented, Schwartz said.

Q: What are the risks of pneumonia?

A: Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be mild or severe. Elderly patients are at risk of deadly complications.

The former president wrote to President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 10, saying that he would be unable to attend Friday’s inauguration because of doctor’s orders: “My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it will likely put me six feet under. Same for Barbara. So I guess we’re stuck in Texas.”

Q: What is vascular parkinsonism?

A: People diagnosed with the condition walk with shuffling steps, and brain scans suggest they have suffered small strokes. However, they do not have the characteristic tremors of Parkinson’s disease, and they do not respond to drugs for Parkinson’s.

“They look like Parkinson’s from the waist down. From the waist up, they look very expressive,” said Dr. Alberto Espay of the University of Cincinnati’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

Q: Is it different from Parkinson’s disease?

A: Yes. It does not get steadily worse in the same way Parkinson’s does. Classic Parkinson’s disease develops when cells that produce one of the brain’s chemical messengers, called dopamine, begin to deteriorate and die. Dopamine transports signals to parts of the brain that control movement. Parkinson’s symptoms appear after enough dopamine-producing cells die that there’s too little of this neurotransmitter in the brain.

Vascular parkinsonism can closely mimic a number of other disorders, including classic Parkinson’s, progressive supranuclear palsy and excessive fluid on the brain.

Q: What has President Bush said about the condition?

A: In a 2012 interview with Parade magazine, Bush said: “It just affects the legs. It’s not painful. You tell your legs to move and they don’t move. It’s strange, but if you have to have some bad-sounding disease, this is a good one to get.”

Bush said the symptoms have been difficult for him “because I love being active, (playing) sports, being in the game. But you just face the reality and make the best of it.”

Q: Who gets it?

A: People in their 70s and older are most likely to be diagnosed, said Dr. Tanya Simuni, who conducts research on Parkinson’s and other movement disorders at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. She calls it a “difficult diagnosis” because of the lack of accurate diagnostic tests.

The risk factors are the same as for stroke and heart disease: history of smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet. It’s rarer than Parkinson’s disease, which affects about 1 million Americans. In contrast, roughly 20,000 people have been told they have vascular parkinsonism.

Q: How is it treated?

A: Since the condition does not respond well to drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, treatment relies on lowering the risk factors for stroke. That means quitting smoking, exercising, eating a healthy diet and perhaps taking a daily aspirin. Preventing falls is important, so a patient may receive physical therapy to improve balance.

Q: What causes the disease?

A: This is where answers get tricky. Conventional thinking says the disease is caused by strokes. But without a perfect test, lots of problems get lumped under the umbrella. Espay has written a paper questioning whether most parkinsonism is related to vascular disease.

Q: Is there a cure?

A: Physical therapy can help with balance and walking, but the damage cannot be reversed, said Dr. Corneliu Luca, assistant professor of neurology at University of Miami. “If you do not control risk factors for stroke, they can have another stroke, and the walking can get even worse,” Luca said.

Q: What complications are most worrisome?

A: Falls are the biggest concern because they can lead to fractures, Simuni said. Bush took a spill in 2015 and fractured his C2 vertebra, the second one below the skull. It’s not known whether that fall was directly related to parkinsonism.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:31:51 +0000
Scientists simulate Mars mission by living in dome Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:45:54 +0000 HONOLULU — Six carefully selected scientists will spend the next eight months living inside a man-made dome on a remote Hawaii volcano as part of a human-behavior study that could help NASA as it draws up plans for sending astronauts on long missions to Mars.

The four men and two women were scheduled to move into their new simulated space home Thursday on Mauna Loa, settling into the vinyl-covered shelter of 1,200 square feet, or about the size of a small, two-bedroom home.

They will have no physical contact with people in the outside world and will work with a 20-minute delay in communications with their support crew, or the time it would take for an email to reach Earth from Mars.

The NASA-funded project will study the psychological difficulties associated with living in isolated and confined conditions for an extended period.

“We’re hoping to figure out how best to select individual astronauts, how to compose a crew and how to support that crew on long-duration space missions,” said principal investigator Kim Binstead, a University of Hawaii science professor.

NASA hopes to send humans to an asteroid in the 2020s and Mars by the 2030s.

The team members on the dome project include engineers, a computer scientist, a doctoral candidate and a biomedical expert. They were selected from 700 applicants who were subjected to personality tests, background checks and extensive interviews.

“When I started, my biggest fear was that we were going to be that crew that turned out like Biosphere 2, which wasn’t a very pretty picture,” said mission commander James Bevington, a space scientist.

Biosphere 2 was a 1990s experimental greenhouse-like habitat in Arizona that became a debacle. It housed different ecosystems and a crew of four men and four women in an effort to understand what would be needed for humans to live on other planets. The participants were supposed to grow their own food and recycle their air inside the sealed glass space.

But the experiment soon spiraled out of control, with the carbon dioxide level rising dangerously and plants and animals dying. The crew members grew hungry and squabbled so badly during the two years they spent cooped up that by the time they emerged, some of them weren’t speaking to each other.

The University of Hawaii operates the dome, called Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, and NASA has dedicated over $2 million to this stage of the project.

Scientists previously lived in the dome for two other long-term NASA-funded stays – one of them lasting a year, the other eight months – to study food requirements and crew cohesion.

There are a number of other Mars simulation projects around the world, but one of the chief advantages of the one in Hawaii is the rugged, Mars-like landscape, on a rocky, red plain below the summit of the world’s largest active volcano.

The dome has small sleeping quarters for each member as well as a kitchen, laboratory and bathroom. Unlike the Biosphere 2, it will be an opaque structure, not a see-through one, and it will not be airtight.

]]> 0 Poulet, right, uses a geotechnical tool while Annie Caraccio records the data during a previous study outside the domed structure that will house six researchers.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:45:54 +0000
Lewiston names new police chief Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:17:12 +0000 The city of Lewiston has named a new police chief, according to an announcement posted Thursday on the department’s Facebook page and the city’s website.

City Administrator Ed Barrett confirmed that Brian O’Malley will be sworn in Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Lewiston City Hall.

O’Malley has led the police department on an interim basis since former chief Michael Bussiere retired six months ago. The city undertook a national search to find his replacement.

“Brian O’Malley was the consensus choice of a diverse hiring panel that evaluated over 20 qualified applicants for the Lewiston chief’s position,” Barrett said in a statement. “Through that process, it became clear that he is strongly committed, not only to continuing and building upon the success the department has achieved, but to the community that it serves.”

O’Malley said he is looking forward to serving as the city’s new police chief, adding that he considers the department “to be the finest police department in the state.”

O’Malley has served with the Lewiston department for 27 years. He has held a variety of positions, including patrol officer, detective, patrol sergeant, sergeant of detectives in the Criminal Investigations Division, and deputy police chief.

O’Malley has advanced training in crisis negotiation and homicide investigation, and is a certified civil rights officer.

“Brian’s dedication and professionalism have been demonstrated time and time again over the last 27 years, and I am very pleased that he will now be at the helm of the Lewiston Police Department,” Mayor Robert E. Macdonald said in a statement.

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

]]> 0 O'MalleyThu, 19 Jan 2017 21:08:15 +0000
Maine man gets life in prison for killing girlfriend, 2 children Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:07:51 +0000 BANGOR — A man convicted of killing his girlfriend and her two children asked for mercy before a judge imposed three life sentences Thursday.

Keith Coleman received the maximum penalty for the slayings of 36-year-old Christina Sargent, 10-year-old Duwayne Coke and 8-year-old Destiny Sargent at home in Garland, about 100 miles northeast of Portland. There is no death penalty in Maine.

Police said Coleman told them that he chased down and strangled the children because they’d witnessed their mother’s death. The bodies were found Dec. 20, 2014.

Jurors in November heard a taped confession from Coleman, who was arrested a day after the bodies were discovered.

“I did it,” Coleman said through sobs. “I did it. I don’t want to say that word but I did it. I killed my girl.” Then he clarified he killed the children as well.

Coleman told the judge Thursday that he’s been painted as a “monster” but that he’s remorseful. He said he felt responsible for the deaths, even though he didn’t say he killed them.

“I just hope you have mercy on me,” he told the judge, according to WLBZ-TV.

Coleman was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of sexual assault. He received a 20-year sentence for sexually assaulting Sargent’s daughter.

Coleman’s attorneys have indicated that they intend to appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:55:01 +0000
Committee endorses $61 million bond to renovate 4 Portland schools Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:48:15 +0000 After hours of heartfelt public testimony supporting the idea, city and school officials on Thursday endorsed a $61 million bond proposal to renovate four Portland elementary schools.

“I’m thrilled,” parent Emily Figdor said after the vote. She had helped organize a parents group that lobbied officials to support a larger $70 million bond to renovate Presumpscot, Reiche, Lyseth and Longfellow elementary schools.

The Portland School Facilities Ad Hoc Committee voted 7-1 to endorse the proposal, with City Councilor Nick Mavodones dissenting. Mavodones had proposed a more limited $32 million bond to renovate two schools and seek state funding for the other two. That proposal did not get any support. The committee has been meeting for months, and had whittled the $70 million proposal down to $61 million.

The committee’s recommendation will now go to the school board for approval, then to the full City Council for a final vote on what bond amount will go to voters. The school board has previously voted to endorse a $70 million bond.

“We keep coming back to the same conclusions – get it to the voters. We need to do that, otherwise I don’t think we have a lot of credibility as your elected officials,” said school board member Marnie Morrione. “This will make Portland great.”

“I really think we need to make this investment,” said school board chairwoman Anna Trevorrow, who also sits on the ad hoc committee. The deferred maintenance at the schools, she said, “is devastating.”

During several hours of public testimony, dozens of people said they support bonding for all four schools. Only three people supported a more limited bond.

“Please take this very necessary first step,” said Jess Marino, who has three children in the district. “Our schools are worth it.”

Multiple speakers talked about the poor conditions in their children’s classrooms, such as skunks living under a modular classroom, students seeing social workers in an office created out of a broom closet and a wall falling over last week at Reiche. The renovations are earmarked for practical fixes, such as installing functional heating and windows that open, making schools accessible for all users, eliminating use of trailers for classrooms and easing severe overcrowding.

In addition to dozens of parents speaking, several lawmakers spoke in favor of the full bond.

“We can’t wait around any longer to mess around with this,” said local state Rep. Richard Farnsworth. “We have put off for 20 years what should have been done annually.”

The elementary schools have not had major investments since they were built, about 45 to 65 years ago. The schools have old mechanical systems and asbestos. Students attend classes in modular buildings and classrooms without walls, and receive non-classroom instruction in hallways and converted closet spaces.

City officials estimate that a $61 million bond would increase property taxes by 3 percent over the next 20 years, costing the owner of a $225,000 house nearly $2,500.

Mavodones said his $32 million alternative plan was an effort to save the city money.

“If we can save the local taxpayers money to do one or two of those schools (with state funds) I think that is a prudent thing to do,” he said Thursday.

The state, which provides construction funds for the neediest schools, closed the most recent funding cycle in September, just as Reiche and Longfellow had moved up to Nos. 2 and 3 on the list of projects to be funded. Typically, no more than about a dozen schools receive money in any one funding cycle.

“It’s time to ask the public if they want to pay for it,” said school board member Sarah Thompson, noting that the board has spent more than $7 million over decades studying the need to renovate the schools. “I’m tired of talking about this.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 Joey Brunelle on Thursday adds his voice to those favoring a bond to renovate four Portland schools.Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:26:50 +0000
Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ Guzman extradited to U.S. Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:38:23 +0000 Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most notorious cartel kingpin who twice made brazen prison escapes and spent years on the run as the country’s most wanted man, was extradited to the United States on Thursday to face drug trafficking and other charges.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department announced Guzman was handed over to U.S. authorities for transportation to the U.S. on Thursday, the last day of President Obama’s administration and a day before Donald Trump is to be inaugurated.

Two senior U.S. officials confirmed that Guzman was on his way.

One said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took custody of Guzman in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, and a plane carrying him departed for New York at 5:31 p.m. Eastern time. The officials agreed to give the information only if not quoted by name because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

New York is one of several U.S. jurisdictions where Guzman faces charges.

The convicted Sinaloa cartel boss has been held most recently in a prison near Ciudad Juarez. He was recaptured a year ago after escaping from a second maximum-security prison through a tunnel dug to his cell. He had fought extradition since then.

]]> 0 "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican soldiers and marines at a federal hangar in Mexico City in 2016. Mexico's most notorious cartel kingpin was extradited to the United States on Thursday to face drug trafficking and other charges. Associated PressThu, 19 Jan 2017 18:38:23 +0000
What will Melania Trump wear to inaugural? Here’s a look at recent first ladies Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:19:34 +0000 0 President George Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush attend one of the Inaugural Balls, Friday, Jan. 21, 1989, night at the D.C Armory in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:51:39 +0000 Massachusetts lawmakers consider pay increases Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:44:53 +0000 But the group Citizens for Limited Taxation questions the timing and urgency of the pay raise hearing.

BOSTON — Lawmakers heard testimony Thursday on a more than 2-year-old report recommending hefty pay raises for the governor, other constitutional officers and top lawmakers – as critics questioned the timing of the hearing so close to the presidential inauguration.

The report suggests hiking the governor’s annual salary from $151,800 to $185,000 with a new, yearly $65,000 housing allowance. Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states without an official governor’s residence or housing allowance.

The report also recommends increasing the salary for the attorney general and state treasurer to $175,000. The attorney general now draws a $130,582 salary. The treasurer earns $127,917.

Ira Jackson, chairman of the Special Advisory Commission on Public Official Compensation said one goal of the higher pay is to attract and retain qualified individuals to public service and help make sure they’re not tempted to betray the public trust.

“We also believe that personal wealth should not be a prerequisite or qualification for public service,” he said.

Critics questioned the timing of the hearing, which was announced just two days ago by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, both Democrats.

“What’s the rush? The commission first released its recommendations in 2008, again in 2014. No hearings were scheduled. Until now January 19th in the opening days of this new legislative session. A day before the inauguration of a new president of the United States of America when all eyes will be on Washington,” the group Citizens for Limited Taxation said in written statement.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:44:53 +0000
N.H. home intruder granted parole on robbery charge Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:32:20 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — A man sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison for his role in a home invasion that left a mother dead and her 11-year-old daughter maimed was granted parole Thursday on one of his convictions but still faces at least a decade more behind bars.

Quinn Glover pleaded guilty to burglary, robbery and conspiracy in the 2009 Mont Vernon attacks.

Glover, who was then 17, and three others broke into a house and found Kimberly and Jaimie Cates asleep.

Glover testified against two co-defendants who hacked and slashed the victims with a machete and a knife, killing 42-year-old Kimberly Cates and severely injuring Jaimie, who lost a portion of her foot in the attack.

Steven Spader and Christopher Gribble are serving life sentences. William Marks is serving a 30-year sentence on a charge of being an accomplice to first-degree murder.

A fifth man, Autumn Savoy, was released on parole in 2015 on charges stemming from disposing of bloody clothing and developing an alibi for his friends.

The parole board found that Glover, now 25, presented no disciplinary concerns in prison, and they granted him parole on the robbery charge.

He’d be eligible for full parole in 2029.

“Not a day goes by, not a moment goes by, that I don’t think about what I’ve done and what the Cateses are going through every moment of the day,” Glover said through an audio link. He is in prison in Vermont.

“I cannot express more how terrible I feel about what I’ve done and how much I try so hard to live every day honoring what I have taken from them and what I need to change in my life,” he said.

A victim’s advocate provided a statement from the Cates family that said: “They experienced, and will continue to experience a lot of pain and suffering because of what’s happened.”

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:32:20 +0000
King invites Energy Department nominee Perry to look at Maine projects Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:05:47 +0000 U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, invited Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Energy, to visit the University of Maine to view energy initiatives the university is collaborating on with the federal government.

“Our university has a relationship to the Department of Energy labs, particularly Oak Ridge,” King told Perry during Thursday’s hearing before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “(The University of Maine) is an amazing engineering school and engineering facility – offshore wind, testing facility, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and I think you would find it very illuminating, so I would love to have you come up. If you want to come in more like June or July rather than February, I’ll accept that.”

Perry said, “Yes, sir. I’ll be there, senator.”

As part of the Economic Development Assistance Team originally requested by King and Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins to support the state’s forest products industry, the energy department and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have collaborated with UMaine to develop bio-based materials for use in additive manufacturing, composites and biofuels. UMaine and the department have also partnered on other initiatives, including the New England Aqua Ventus I offshore wind pilot project.

King also pressed Perry to make low energy prices a priority, and warned against increasing U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas.

]]> 0 KingFri, 20 Jan 2017 06:11:38 +0000
Committee endorses bill to delay marijuana sales in Maine Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:00:45 +0000 AUGUSTA — A legislative committee unanimously endorsed a bill Thursday that would close a potential loophole in Maine’s marijuana legalization law but delay retail sales of pot until at least February 2018.

In the legislative session’s first major action on marijuana policy, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee endorsed a bill that would:

n Make clear that recreational marijuana will be legal only for Mainers 21 and older as of Jan. 30.

n Require agencies to complete rulemaking by the end of October but delay retail marijuana sales licenses until at least February 2018.

n Limit the amount of “marijuana concentrate” a person can possess to 5 grams.

n Stipulate that neither drivers nor passengers can use marijuana in an operating vehicle.

Maine is among eight states and the District of Columbia where voters have legalized marijuana for recreational use, despite federal prohibitions on the drug. By month’s end, Mainers 21 and over will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of dried marijuana, consume marijuana “edibles” and possess as many as six adult plants. The transition to legal pot has not been smooth in other states, and Maine lawmakers are rushing to address several vagaries or potential flaws in the state’s voter-approved law before Jan. 30.

At the top of that list was correcting a drafting error in the ballot initiative passed by voters in November that, according to Attorney General Janet Mills and others, could have inadvertently made it legal for minors to possess marijuana. The bill endorsed by the committee Thursday clarifies that possession of small amounts of marijuana by minors will continue to be a civil violation, except for medical marijuana patients.


More controversially, some lawmakers want to delay retail sales of marijuana by several months to give state agencies time to craft rules to regulate the cannabis industry. The bill endorsed Thursday, L.D. 88, would give the state three extra months to begin issuing licenses to retail stores or marijuana social clubs.

While the practical impact is arguably negligible because retail sales were unlikely to begin before the Legislature reviewed the rules in January 2018, proponents of a three-month moratorium celebrated the committee vote.

“It is very encouraging to see bipartisan support for this measure regarding the marijuana moratorium,” Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said in a prepared statement. “Although Maine voters approved this measure, albeit by a very narrow margin, I believe it is clear to all that there are many unforeseen circumstances surrounding legalization that impact public safety, employment and a number of other areas. It is hard to imagine that anyone who voted in favor of legalization wanted children to get their hands on this drug.”

Work on the bill is not done yet.

For the bill to take effect immediately, it will need two-thirds support in both the House and Senate. The unanimous committee vote should help in that respect. However, some Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans who are strong proponents of legalization could oppose the delayed implementation.

Legalization advocates, while not overjoyed with every aspect of the bill, praised the committee for soliciting their feedback.

“It’s clear that rulemaking will start on January 30, which was a priority of the coalition,” said Paul McCarrier with Legalize Maine, one of the groups behind the Question 1 ballot initiative.

Gov. Paul LePage opposed legalization during the campaign, and during the committee process some lawmakers questioned whether the administration could drag out the rulemaking process.

But Alysia Melnick, political director of the Yes on 1 legalization campaign, said she hopes the administration will move forward with rulemaking and send proposals to the Legislature for review early next year.

“They have an obligation to do rulemaking within nine months: it’s the will of the voters and is in the law,” Melnick said. “The recourse, should they not (proceed with rulemaking), would have to be through the courts.”

L.D. 88 is only the first of many policy debates over legalization that will play out in Augusta over the coming months.

In another major step, the House and Senate voted to form a special legislative committee to review the more than 50 marijuana-related bills submitted by lawmakers. That committee is expected to do more of the heavy lifting on marijuana issues, now that the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee has recommended ways to address the immediate concerns headed toward Jan. 30.

“We have got to fix what we can, and then this (special) committee will have to do the rest,” said Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, a co-chairman of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

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

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

]]> 0 Press File Photo/Seth Perlman Marijuana grows at a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. In a report released Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the federal advisory panel took a comprehensive look at what's known about the benefits and harms of marijuana and is calling for a national effort to learn more about the drug.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:37:19 +0000
Legislative committee supports spending that avoids UMaine System tuition increase Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:07:06 +0000 The Legislature’s Education Committee signed off Thursday on a supplemental budget proposal that would give the University of Maine System additional funding in order to hold off a tuition increase in the current 2016-17 academic year.

Under the agreement, offered last March, the governor agreed to provide an additional $7.6 million to the system. It includes about $4.65 million to offset a tuition hike, $2 million for early college programs for high school students taking college-level courses, and $550,000 for pre-law programs to increase diversity.

The committee also approved supplementary budget changes for the community college system and the state Department of Education, mostly for minor budget adjustments. The changes now go to the Appropriations Committee for approval.

The supplemental budget adjusts the last biennial budget, already approved by the Legislature, not the new two-year state spending plan the governor delivered to the Legislature earlier this month. That proposal includes major changes to funding the state’s K-12 schools and other education-related proposals and will be debated and voted on in the coming months.

Tuition at the UMaine System is closely watched, in order to keep college affordable and still provide needed revenue. The system has frozen tuition for six years now in exchange for stable state funding. Along the way, the trustees have made major cuts to programs and staffing and overhauled multiple departments to cut costs.

In most other states, tuitions have increased and state funding has dropped over the same time period.

In-state tuition and fees at the flagship campus in Orono are about $10,606 per year, slightly higher than the national average of $9,410. Tuition at the University of Southern Maine is about $8,000 annually.

That will change this fall, as the trustees have signaled a plan to increase tuition annually by the cost of living and have already approved a new three-tiered tuition model that will increase tuition at four campuses.

Currently, each of the seven campuses charges its own tuition, ranging from a high of $8,370 a year at the flagship campus in Orono, to a low of $6,600 a year at campuses in Fort Kent and Presque Isle.

Going forward there will be three prices: One at the University of Maine, a slightly lower tuition at the University of Maine-Farmington and USM, and the least expensive tuition at the remaining four campuses. Tuition will default to the highest tuition charged in each group, meaning USM students will pay the higher UMF tuition. That means under current tuition rates, USM tuition will increase by $240, from $7,590 a year ($253 per credit hour) to $7,830 a year ($261 per credit hour.)

Tuition at the four remaining campuses will be at the Machias level of $6,660 per year, meaning students at Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Augusta will pay about $60 a year more.

In addition to tuition, mandatory annual student fees range from $2,258 at Orono to $700 at Presque Isle.

The trustees will decide whether to increase tuition when they vote this spring on the budget.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:12:31 +0000
Maine lobster for lunch is one tradition Trump is keeping Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:02:12 +0000 NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s first meal as president of the United States isn’t too far from the typical power lunch for a billionaire businessman – lobster, beef and a rich chocolate dessert.

The inaugural committee Thursday released the lunch menu following the swearing-in ceremonies on Friday and Trump and some 200 guests will be tucking into a first course of Maine lobster and Gulf shrimp in a saffron sauce and peanut crumble, Angus beef from Virginia with Idaho potatoes and a dark chocolate sauce, and a chocolate souffle with cherry vanilla ice cream. California wines will accompany the meal at the Statuary Hall.

The three-course menu isn’t too far from previous lunches other new commanders in chief have enjoyed, with lobster in some form usually making the first course.

Barack Obama’s first lunch as commander in chief in 2009 included lobster and shrimp in the seafood stew, but duck and pheasant with winter vegetables as the main course. An apple cinnamon spongecake was for dessert.

Four years later, the lunch included steamed lobster with New England chowder, bison with a wild huckleberry reduction and wild rice, and a dessert of apple pie.

George W. Bush in 2005 was served scalloped crab and lobster with roasted Missouri quail and brined root vegetables and a dessert of lemon pudding. In 2001, he enjoyed a lobster pie, center cut beef tenderloin steaks and toffee pudding with vanilla bean ice cream.

On Friday, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will be joined by members of their families, the Supreme Court, Cabinet designees and members of Congressional leadership.

Trump’s culinary tastes run from frogs legs at three-Michelin-star restaurants to fast food. He has posted on social media photos of himself with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s burger and fries.

]]> 0 Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he speaks during a leadership luncheon at Trump International Hotel, which he owns but which occupies space leased from the federal government, in Washington on Thursday.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:29:36 +0000
Even before taking office, Trump has changed the presidency Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:48:37 +0000 WASHINGTON – Donald Trump enters the White House on Friday just as he entered the race for president: defiant, unfiltered, unbound by tradition and utterly confident in his chosen course.

In the 10 weeks since his surprise election as the nation’s 45th president, Trump has violated decades of established diplomatic protocol, sent shockwaves through business boardrooms, tested long-standing ethics rules and continued his combative style of replying to any slight with a personal attack – on Twitter and in person.

Past presidents have described walking into the Oval Office for the first time as a humbling experience, one that in an instant makes clear the weight of their new role as caretaker of American democracy. Trump spent much of his transition making clear he sees things differently: Rather than change for the office, he argues, the office will change for him.

“They say it’s not presidential to call up these massive leaders of business,” Trump told a crowd in Indianapolis in December. That was after he negotiated a deal with an air conditioning company to keep jobs in the state, a move many economists derided as unworkable national economic policy.

“I think it’s very presidential,” he declared. “And if it’s not presidential, that’s OK. That’s OK. Because I actually like doing it.”

Even before he takes the oath of office, Trump has changed the very nature of presidency, breaking conventions and upending expectations for the leader of the free world.


Advisers who’ve spoken with Trump say the billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star is aware of the historic nature of his new job. He’s told friends that he’s drawn to the ambition of Ronald Reagan, a Republican, and John F. Kennedy, a Democrat. He’s thinking of spending his first night in the White House sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, according to some who dined with him recently in Florida.

But Trump also views himself as a kind of “sui generis” president, beholden to no one for his success and modeling himself after no leader who’s come before. Trump has said he’s read no biographies of former presidents. When asked to name his personal heroes in a recent interview, he mentioned his father before replying that he didn’t “like the concept of heroes.”

“I don’t think Trump has a great sense of the history of the White House. When you don’t know your history, it’s hard to fully respect the traditions,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who recently dined with Trump and other guests at his South Florida club. “This is not somebody who brags about how many history biographies he’s read.”

“He’s somebody who brags about it as this is a big event and he’s the maestro,” he said.

That’s a shift that thrills his supporters, who elected Trump to shake up what they see as an unresponsive and corrupt federal government in the “swamp” of Washington.

“I don’t want him to change” said Iowa state Sen. Brad Zaun, one of Trump’s earliest backers. “One of the reasons that I supported him is that he told it the way it was. He didn’t beat around the bush. He didn’t do the standard political talking points.”


Trump won election with that approach, but he’s yet to win over the country. His Electoral College victory was tempered by a loss in the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots. The protests planned for the day after his inauguration threaten to draw more people to the National Mall than his official events.

Polls over the past week show that Trump is poised to enter the White House as the least popular president in four decades. Democrats remain staunchly opposed to him, independents have not rallied behind him and even Republicans are less enthusiastic than might be expected, according to the surveys.

In his typical reaction to poll results he doesn’t like, Trump dismissed them as “rigged” in a Tuesday tweet.

It’s exactly that kind of tweet that worries governing experts, lawmakers and other critics, who argue that traditional practices of the presidency protect the health of the American democracy.

“With notable exceptions, we’ve had a political culture in which presidents largely respect a series of unwritten rules that help democracy and the rule of law flourish,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College. “What’s striking about Trump is he flouts norms that have previously been respected by both parties on a daily basis. He calls things into question that have never been questioned before.”


Since winning the election, Trump has attacked Hollywood celebrities, civil rights icons and political rivals alike. He’s moved markets by going after some companies, while praising others.

He’s questioned the legitimacy of American institutions – appearing to trust the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the intelligence agencies he’ll soon oversee, engaging in personal fights with journalists as he assails the free press and questioning the results of the election, even though it put him in office.

And he’s lambasted the leaders of longstanding allied nations as he questions the post-World War II international order that won the Cold War and maintained peace in Europe for generations.

For Trump supporters, that no-holds-barred style is the very reason he won their votes. But for others in the country, it’s a type of leadership they’ve seen before and fear will spread.


They point to Maine, where a Trump-like governor has roiled the state’s government with offensive statements, a combative style and little respect for the Legislature, as a warning of what the nation might expect during a Trump administration.

Gov. Paul LePage’s confrontational brand of politics has made it harder to pass legislation, build political coalitions or even conduct the basic workings of state government, say legislators and political consultants in the traditionally centrist state. He’s created rifts with would-be Republican allies, demonized the media and tightly controlled basic information. At times, he’s banned the heads of state agencies from appearing before legislative committees, making state budgeting and oversight difficult.

“What I’m concerned about nationally is what we’ve seen up here – that the checks and balances we take for granted disappear,” said Lance Dutson, a Republican political strategist who worked to get LePage elected before later speaking out against him. “There are things that are happening up here that I really thought just couldn’t happen.”

There are signs that Trump’s actions are already changing the traditions of government in Washington, freeing lawmakers and other officials from long-respected practices of federal politics.


More than 50 House Democrats plan to boycott Trump’s inauguration ceremony, an unprecedented break with the bipartisan tradition of celebrating the peaceful transfer of power. While many Democrats were furious with the outcome of the 2000 election in which Republican George W. Bush defeated Al Gore after recounts and a Supreme Court ruling, they generally attended Bush’s inauguration ceremony.

“I will not celebrate a man who preaches a politics of division and hate,” tweeted Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman who’s bidding to head the Democratic National Committee.

Those who know Trump say the billionaire mogul delights in confounding establishment expectations, even as he craves approval from powerbrokers in New York and Washington.

“He was born with a chip on his shoulder, and he is very much the guy from Queens who looked across at Manhattan and envied but also to some degree hated the elites who occupied Manhattan,” said Michael D’Antonio, author of “Never Enough,” a Trump biography. “The way that he wants to disrupt institutions reflects this idea that the institutions haven’t embraced him.”


That’s a style that may work better for a CEO of a family corporation – who has little oversight from corporate boards or shareholders – than a president constrained by a system of checks and balances. Former Cabinet officials say the layers of government bureaucracy, myriad regulations and intricacies of Congress will challenge Trump’s style.

“A president doesn’t have sweeping, universal authority. It is a very different operation than being a CEO who can fire people and hire people at will,” said Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat and former health and human services secretary. “He’s never been part of any organization with a framework where institutional rules are in place.”

President Barack Obama, who’s offered Trump advice both publicly and privately, said he’s urged the president-elect to hold onto some of the traditions of the office.

“The one thing I’ve said to him directly, and I would advise my Republican friends in Congress and supporters around the country, is just make sure that as we go forward certain norms, certain institutional traditions don’t get eroded, because there’s a reason they’re in place,” said Obama, in a recent interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

But Trump’s supporters say it’s the institutions and Washington – and not the next president – that must change.

“Trump believes that he has a better understanding of how things work in the modern world than all of these so-called critics,” said Newt Gingrich, a Trump adviser and former Republican House speaker, who has spoken with the president-elect about his presidency. “That’s who he is.

“The rest of us are going to have to learn how to think through that.”

]]> 0, 19 Jan 2017 22:29:31 +0000
Job growth, low unemployment create need for more Portland-area office space Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:45:00 +0000 Job growth and rock-bottom unemployment in southern Maine kept office vacancies low in 2016 and created pent-up demand for more premium office space in downtown Portland, according to presenters at the annual Maine Real Estate and Development Association conference Thursday.

“After several years of little to no new product added, we are finally seeing new construction on Middle Street in downtown Portland,” said Drew Sigfridson, managing director of CBRE|The Boulos Co. in Portland. “Our ‘Class A’ downtown market in Portland continues to be especially tight, with very few large office moves happening in 2016. Businesses continue to add jobs and signs of increased employment are everywhere – from the long wait list for parking garages downtown to an increase in traffic counts on main commuter routes.”

Office vacancy rates in Portland decreased in both downtown and suburban areas in 2016, as well as in Westbrook, Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth, according to Nate Stevens, associate broker at CBRE|Boulos. However, he said vacancies increased in Scarborough and South Portland, particularly around the Maine Mall area.

The area’s overall vacancy rate in 2016 was about 6.2 percent, with a slightly higher rate of 6.8 percent when subleasing space is included, Stevens said. Seven consecutive years of declining vacancies have led to a landlord’s market in which asking lease rates are up and tenants are faced with relatively limited options, particularly for prime office space downtown. He said those conditions are likely to persist throughout 2017.

However, there are several new projects in the pipeline that could help alleviate the shortage, Stevens said. They include three office buildings already under construction: 55,000 square feet at 16 Middle St. in Portland; 94,500 square feet at 1 Tyler Drive in Yarmouth; and 34,500 square feet at 705 U.S. Route One, also in Yarmouth.

Three additional projects, all in Portland, are in the planning phase, according to Stevens: 48,000 square feet at 20 Fore St., 18,000 square feet at Union Wharf, and 22,050 square feet at 266 Commercial St.


]]> 0 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:07:16 +0000
Southern Maine retail real estate sector looks robust Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:25:00 +0000 The real estate market for retailers in southern Maine continues to be tight, reflected in vacancy rates that are a third of the national average. Lease rates, too, appear to be climbing, an indication that bricks-and-mortar stores are still coveted properties, despite the siphoning of shoppers to online sites.

Peter Harrington, a retail broker with Malone Commercial Properties, noted in his presentation at the Maine Real Estate and Development Association forecasting conference that national vacancy rates in 2016 for retail space hovered at just over 11 percent, while vacancy rates in Greater Portland were 3.44 percent.

Those same properties were commanding lease rates of $17.50 per square foot, a sizable jump from the $14.77 retailers paid in 2015.

905942 RetailLeaseRates0117

Helping to drive those numbers was increasing activity in the Old Port, which experienced nearly zero vacancies last year. Harrington pointed out that national retailers have landed on Middle Street, “creating a renaissance,” with Urban Outfitters moving there in 2011, followed by Anthropologie in 2014 and the expected opening this year of West Elm, a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma that sells furniture and housewares.

The Maine Mall is also doing well, at near capacity. Based on information from the retailers there, Harrington said overall holiday sales were expected to be 4 percent to 6 percent higher than in 2015.

Among the changes there: the former Gap an Lane Bryant spaces will be taken over by H&M and that retailer’s current smaller space will be filled soon. Harrington said there are several parties interested in leasing the former Sports Authority store.

He also noted that traditional department stores such as Macy’s, Kmart and Sears are in transition, as their parent companies announce closures across the country. Other retailers, supermarkets, specialty food stores, gyms and other sorts of retailers are interested in the former department store space, which Harrington said could be good for malls because the new businesses would likely generate more foot traffic.

]]> 0, 20 Jan 2017 00:13:00 +0000
Maine Green Party splinters over school band performing at Trump inaugural event Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:16:10 +0000 Madawaska’s marching band performs in Washington

Some of the musicians lined up to perform at presidential inauguration events this week have faced intense backlash from critics of President-elect Donald Trump.

Some have even backed out.

But the appearance at an inaugural event of the middle and high school marching band from Madawaska has fractured the leadership of the Maine Green Independent Party and driven two of its most prominent members to defect and declare themselves socialists.

The reason? The director of the marching band, Ben Meiklejohn, also happens to be the secretary of the Maine Green Independent Party. And some former Green members from Portland don’t think Meiklejohn should be doing anything close to supporting the inauguration of Trump.

The 28-student band left its hometown on Maine’s northern border for Washington early Wednesday morning in order to arrive in time to perform Thursday in a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The “Make America Great! Welcome Concert” kicked off three days of events highlighted by Trump’s swearing in as the 45th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.

For the members of a band known as “the Pride of Madawaska,” it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, no matter who is getting sworn in as president, school officials said. The Maine band was only one of 12 such ensembles from across the nation that were invited to perform.

“For them to be part of such a historic event not only reinforces their passions for music, but provides them a real-life lesson in civics and government that most students will only experience in a textbook or on some visual media presentation,” Madawaska Middle and High School Principal Wayne Anderson said in a media release.

Meiklejohn, who was hired by the school department in October, put in the request for the band to perform after recalling his own experience with his Kennebunk High School bandmates during the inauguration of President George H.W. Bush.

“Being part of a presidential inauguration is an experience of a lifetime,” Meiklejohn said in a written statement issued before the band left Maine.


Not everyone sees it that way, as some other performers have found out. The Bruce Springsteen cover band B Street Band pulled out of an inaugural performance after Springsteen expressed disapproval, and singer Jennifer Holliday backed out after hearing from angry fans who did not want her to lend support to Trump.

The fallout has now shaken up Maine’s Green Party.

Former Green Party candidates Tom MacMillan and Seth Baker announced their resignations from the party this week and said they will change their voter registration political affiliation to Socialist Party USA. MacMillan is a past chair of the Green Party in Portland and ran for mayor there in 2015, and Baker was a Green candidate for a Portland state Senate seat last year.

Maine’s Green Party achieved significant political influence in Portland, but has experienced infighting and declining clout in recent years. MacMillan and Baker announced their decision to leave in a news release that said Meiklejohn’s participation in the inauguration was the last straw.

“The Maine Greens’ political support for local Democrats over the past several years has drastically reduced our confidence in that party,” the news release said. “However, what has moved us to leave the Green Party is their lack of accountability for MGIP Secretary Ben Meiklejohn’s support for the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. Secretary Meiklejohn has proven to be a reactionary and unprincipled leader in the MGIP and their leadership is unwilling to address the situation.

“Therefore, in order to stay true to our beliefs in justice and equality as well as to be in solidarity with the millions of people rightfully worried about the incoming Trump administration, we are leaving the Green Party and plan to build the Socialist Party in Maine as a counterweight to the corrupt economic and political system. Working people need their own political party, and from now on, our time, energy and activism will be committed to the Socialist Party as the best way to move forward for Maine workers.”


Meiklejohn characterized the actions by MacMillan and Baker as “silly.”

“I came down here first as a music teacher and for these kids, not for political reasons,” he said during a telephone interview late Thursday evening.

Meiklejohn said he does not support Trump or most of his policies. In fact, he voted for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

“The issue is, this is the biggest, most important concert that these kids have ever played in,” he said. “Participating in a presidential inauguration is not making a political statement, it’s being part of history.”

]]> 0, 19 Jan 2017 23:53:23 +0000
Brokers: Portland area’s hot multi-family housing market only got hotter in 2016 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:03:00 +0000 The market for building, buying and selling apartments and condominiums in the Portland metro area remained red hot in 2016, according to presenters at the annual Maine Real Estate and Development Association conference Thursday.

“Multi-family and condominium construction in Portland is exploding with hundreds of units added within the past two years, additional product under construction and even more in the pipeline,” said Drew Sigfridson, managing director of CBRE|The Boulos Co. in Portland.

Brit Vitalius, principal and designated broker at Vitalius Real Estate Group in Portland, said that while downtown Portland remains the most desirable area for investors in multi-family housing, surrounding areas are also seeing a surge in activity.

From 2015 to 2016, the sales volume of apartment units increased by 57 percent in Westbrook, 24 percent in Lewiston-Auburn, 23 percent in South Portland and 12 percent in Saco-Biddeford, Vitalius said.

“Downtown (Portland) is hot, but it’s ALL good,” he said.

The median sale price for multi-family units also increased in all of southern Maine’s major markets, Vitalius said. From 2015 to 2016, the median price increased by 9 percent in Portland, 12 percent in South Portland, 3 percent in Westbrook, 6 percent in Saco-Biddeford and 14 percent in Lewiston-Auburn, he said.

The absorption rate for apartment housing – defined as the amount of time it would take to sell all existing inventory at the current rate of sales – plummeted in 2016, according to Vitalius. In Portland, it fell from 5 months in 2012 to 2.3 months. In South Portland, it dropped even further, from 5.5 months in 2012 to 1.5 months. In Westbrook, it fell from 5.7 months to 2.4 months.

In addition, condominiums have become a major force in Portland’s residential real estate market.

According to David Marsden of the Bean Group, there were 972 Portland residential sales in 2016, of which 345 were condos.

The sales were heavily weighted toward less-expensive homes, he said. Just over 200 condos were sold for less than $300,000, while 68 fell in the $300,000 to $400,000 range; 34 sold for between $400,000 and $500,000; 35 between $500,000 and $800,000 and five sold for more than $800,000.

]]> 0, ME - OCTOBER 14: Condominiums as 22 Hancock St. in the India Street neighborhood Wednesday, October 14, 2015. (Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:17:54 +0000
Maine professors recruit 700 colleagues to sign letter to Trump on climate change Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:00:58 +0000 More than 700 physics and astronomy faculty members from across the country have signed onto a letter written by three Maine professors urging President-elect Donald Trump to make tackling climate change an “urgent priority.”

“Addressing climate change will involve short-term costs, but will also mean new investments, new jobs and new opportunities for global leadership; things that Americans around the country will welcome,” reads the letter sent Wednesday to the president-elect’s Trump Tower office in New York.

“President-elect Trump, we implore you to address the threat of climate change immediately. In so doing, you have a unique opportunity to make America an even greater country and secure a better future for all the children of the world.”

Three Maine professors – Paul Nakroshis of the University of Southern Maine and Mark Battle and Madeleine Msall of Bowdoin College – began drafting the letter soon after Trump’s election.

In the months since, they contacted colleagues at 751 colleges and universities with degree-granting physics programs. The final version sent Wednesday to Trump and released to the public as an “open letter” on Thursday was signed by 706 physics and astronomy scientists from 45 states.

Trump is a climate change skeptic and several of his Cabinet nominees have either fought against federal regulations to combat climate change or worked in the fossil fuels industry. In their letter, the professors wrote that “the scientific community is highly confident that human use of fossil fuels is the dominant driver of this warming” and that there is “no meaningful dissent” within the scientific community that carbon dioxide emissions are the dominant factor behind the warming climate.

Battle, an associate professor of physics who works on climate issues, said the three leaders of the letter as well as many of the signers were fully aware of Trump’s skepticism toward climate change and dismissal of the scientific consensus on the issue.

“But our feeling was we couldn’t stand by and do nothing with a clear conscience,” Battle said.

Battle stressed that while “a great majority” of the signatories to the letter were not climate scientists, they were all “trained scientists and trained communicators” who are able to recognize valid science and communicate it in a clear way.

“As faculty members and researchers from Departments of Physics and Astronomy around the United States, we urge you to address this issue as a most urgent priority,” reads the letter.

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

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

]]> 0 international agreement on limiting HFCs, often used in air conditioners and refrigerators, could put a half-degree Celsius dent in climate change by century's end, experts say.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:49:31 +0000
Sen. Angus King will vote against Trump’s EPA pick Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:59:13 +0000 LEWISTON — Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine is going to vote against President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

He tells Maine Public Radio that he’s found no record of the Oklahoma attorney general taking “affirmative and strong” actions to enforce environmental law. He also he says he’s concluded Pruitt’s anti-regulatory positions reach the level of “undermining the fundamental mission of the agency.”

During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt told senators on Wednesday that climate change is real, backing away from his past statements and contradicting Trump’s statements.

But King said he takes the environment seriously and “cannot approve the appointment of someone who is so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency.”

]]> 0 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 06:13:48 +0000
Hotel occupancy flat in Maine with more supply on the way Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:15:00 +0000 Despite a leveling-off of demand for hotel rooms statewide, there are five new hotel projects under construction in Maine and at least three more in the planning stage.

The occupancy rate at Maine hotels remained relatively flat in 2016 as the new supply of rooms nearly caught up with demand, said presenters at the Maine Real Estate and Development Association’s annual forecasting conference Thursday in Portland.

Still, there is a lot more supply on the way, they said.

Three new Maine hotels were completed in 2016, adding 239 rooms to the state’s total supply, according to Mitchell Muroff of Muroff Daigle Hospitality Group in Newton, Massachusetts. They were Hampton Inn in Oxford, Homewood Suites in Augusta and 250 Main in Rockland Harbor.

A far greater number of hotel projects are under construction or expected to break ground in 2017 that would add an estimated 650 rooms to Maine’s overall supply. Five hotels are under construction and three more in are the planning phase.

905942 HotelOccupancy0117

If all are built, those eight projects would bring the total number of hotel rooms in Maine to roughly 38,000.

The five hotels under construction are Hampton Inn in Kennebunk, Tru by Hilton in South Portland, AC Hotel Portland on Fore Street in Portland, Home2Suites in South Portland and a still-unnamed upscale hotel at Oxford Casino in Oxford.

Why is this happening? Muroff said the reason is that despite little movement in occupancy rates, hoteliers in Maine have succeeded in squeezing progressively more revenue out of their guests each year since 2009.

“The average daily rate has increased every year for the past eight years,” he said. “It’s been a great run – it really has been.”

The hotel occupancy rate in Maine reached about 56 percent in 2016, up slightly from 55 percent the previous year, according to Muroff. In Portland, the average occupancy rate was 63.4 percent in 2016, up 4.6 percent from the previous year.

The U.S. hotel occupancy rate also remained flat in 2016 at just under 66 percent. Maine’s occupancy rate always lags behind the nation because of the state’s highly seasonal tourism industry.

But while occupancy is flat, the revenue numbers for hoteliers continue to rise.

The average daily room rate in Portland was $133.24, an increase of 4.7 percent over 2015. Revenue per available room, a metric used to gauge a hotel’s financial performance, was $84.54 in 2016, up “a whopping 9.5 percent” from the previous year, Muroff said.

Those are compelling statistics that have convinced many hotel developers once skeptical of building additional supply in Maine to change their attitude, said Jim Brady, developer of The Press Hotel in downtown Portland, which opened in May 2015.

Brady said that when he was seeking financing for that project, no lender in Maine would give him the time of day.

“I had to go with an out-of-state bank because not a single bank in Maine would loan us money,” he said.

But things have changed, in part because of the success of Brady’s project.

Brady said it’s possible that the Portland area, which already has about 5,500 hotel rooms, can absorb the additional supply that is under development.

However, he said it would require a continuation of the recent trend of growing popularity that the area has enjoyed.

“If we’re fortunate enough that the Portland market continues to expand,” Brady said, then it will be able to handle the new supply without a drop in occupancy rates. It really comes down to marketing the area properly, he said.

For instance, Brady said he would like to see a push to draw more tourists to Portland in the winter, possibly by creating and promoting holiday markets and festivals.

“We really don’t need more demand per se in July,” he said. “We need more demand in the off months.”

Major drivers of increased hotel occupancy in Portland included the “micro-brewing and foodie craze,” which kept demand high in the city, said Muroff.

Elsewhere in the state, lodging revenues are similarly strong. Maine’s average daily room rate reached $120 last year, a 33 percent increase over the $90 average rate from 10 years ago. Revenue per available room also increased, from roughly $57 in 2007 to $67 in 2016.

Total room sales volume in Maine was on track at the end of September to improve upon 2015’s total sales of $856 million by 9.2 percent.

Muroff predicted another flat year for Maine hotel occupancy in 2017, while the U.S. hotel occupancy rate is expected to decline slightly.

]]> 0 Davis/Staff Photographer Portland’s Residence Inn by Marriott is one of the hotels drawing visitors to the downtown area. According to a hospitality industry report, hotels on the city’s peninsula reported a 70 percent occupancy rate in 2015.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:55:58 +0000
Retired Maine budget chief Sawin Millett is back to advise lawmakers Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:20:25 +0000 AUGUSTA — A retired Maine finance commissioner who has served five different governors is returning to government, this time as a budget adviser for the state Senate’s Republican majority.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, announced that Sawin Millett, 79, is joining his staff. Millett most recently worked for Gov. Paul LePage but has also served in other roles, including as education commissioner for Democratic and independent governors.

Millett retired in 2014 after nearly 55 years of state government service when he left LePage’s Cabinet to return to his family farm in Waterford.

Millett, as a lawmaker, was elected to six different terms in the Maine House of Representatives and served three times as the House chairman of the powerful budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

Thibodeau said the Legislature’s current effort to produce a new two-year state budget by June 30 will benefit from Millett’s experience.

“We have tremendous challenges in front of us over the next five months as we attempt to craft a biennial budget that will keep government services operating efficiently without raising the tax burden on Maine citizens,” Thibodeau said in a prepared statement. “Without question, Sawin is an invaluable resource who will bring great benefits to legislative Republicans in the months ahead.”

]]> 0 Maine Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett is returning to state government to serve as a budget adviser for the state Senate's Republican majority.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:13:53 +0000
Bridge is not a sport, rules British court Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:55:04 +0000 LONDON — Bridge players who want the card game recognized as a sport have lost their latest legal bid in Britain.

The Court of Appeal in London on Thursday upheld an October 2015 ruling backing Sport England’s refusal to put bridge in the same category as badminton, billiards and ballroom dancing.

The English Bridge Union, which has some 55,000 members, had sought the designation.

The union had argued that a lack of sporting recognition meant fewer opportunities for public funding and to promote bridge. It says the game has recognized health and well-being benefits.

Sport England, which makes public funding decisions, has a policy that says sport must involve a “physical activity” component. Its list of recognized sports includes angling, darts, dodgeball, model aircraft flying and ballooning.

]]> 0 - In this Sept. 9, 2015 file photo, a player holds a selection of playing cards, during a game, in Coventry. Bridge players who want the card game recognized as a sport have lost their latest legal bid in Britain. The Court of Appeal in London on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017 upheld an October 2015 ruling backing Sport England’s refusal to put bridge in the same category as badminton, billiards and ballroom dancing. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP, File)Thu, 19 Jan 2017 12:57:15 +0000
LePage to deliver State of the State speech after 1-year hiatus Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:13:16 +0000 AUGUSTA— Maine Gov. Paul LePage is planning to deliver a State of the State address after a one-year hiatus from the longstanding tradition.

Aides to Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau and Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon said legislative leaders worked with the Governor’s Office to schedule the address for Feb. 7.

LePage’s office had no immediate comment Thursday.

The governor last year chose to deliver a letter to legislators rather than deliver a speech to a joint session of the Legislature as has been custom.

LePage said he wanted to forgo the “pomp and circumstance” of a formal address.

His nine-page letter was issued a month after a failed impeachment vote. It focused on reforming welfare, cutting income taxes, lowering energy costs, reducing student debt and fighting the drug crisis.

]]> 0 erupts during Gov. LePage's State of the State speech Tuesday.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 12:28:04 +0000
Jury finds Oakland woman not guilty of 2 charges of unlawful sexual contact with children Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:40:20 +0000 AUGUSTA — A jury on Thursday cleared a former Oakland woman of two charges of unlawful sexual contact, and a judge declared a mistrial on the third charge of gross sexual assault on a child under 12.

The jury returned the two not guilty verdicts in the case against Sarah B. Conway, 28, formerly of Oakland and currently of Canaan, New Hampshire. The trial at the Capital Judicial Center began Tuesday afternoon and jurors indicated they were deadlocked on the most serious charge.

The case began when Conway, pregnant and living in a tent in her father’s backyard in New Hampshire, sent a text message saying her ex-fiance sexually abused children in Maine.

That started a chain of events that led to the ex-fiance, Stephen R. Smith, pleading guilty to child sex abuse charges and serving a resulting 30-year prison term that starts with 18 years behind bars and charges that Conway too sexually abused children.

After the jurors left the courtroom Thursday, Conway embraced a number of family members who had come to the courthouse to hear the verdict. Conway has been free on bail and the judge continued that bail Thursday morning.

Conway initially faced seven charges; however, she pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child under 12 prior to the jury trial, and the judge later acquitted her of two counts of visual sexual aggression.

That left the jury to decide the remaining three charges: one count of gross sexual assault on a child under 12 and two counts of unlawful sexual contact on a child under 12.

They failed to reach a verdict Wednesday night after more than 3 1/2 hours of deliberating, so they resumed Thursday morning.

According to evidence presented at trial, Conway’s text message went to her future brother-in-law who insisted she explain why she had broken off the relationship with Smith — who was staying in an adjacent tent — when her father and step-mother seemed to like Smith so much.

Conway said she kept telling them they didn’t know what he was like.

When the parents saw the message to the brother-in-law, they all drove to her workplace and insisted she go to police immediately or they would. It would look better for her if she did it, they said.

Sgt. Ryan Porter of the Canaan, New Hampshire, police department, who formerly worked as a deputy in the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office in Maine, took her statement and forwarded it to Maine police because the offenses against the young boy and girl occurred in Oakland.

Porter and Smith both testified at the trial as did Conway.

This story will be updated.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:40:20 +0000
Rebounding regional economies push development Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:30:00 +0000 The primary focus at the MEREDA annual forecasting conference was definitely southern Maine, but developments in other regions were noted. Development throughout the state seems to be buoyed by low interest rates and low unemployment rates.

In the Augusta area, Keith Luke of the city’s development staff, noted that a $6 million restoration of Colonial Theater on Water Street is underway. Additionally, there’s been some renewed interest in redeveloping the former Statler mill site into Kennebec Locke, the capitol’s version of Portland’s Thompson Point, Luke said.

Interest in multi-family sales had a significant impact in the Lewiston-Auburn real estate market. According to Malone broker Kevin Fletcher, sales of buildings with five or more units increased 53 percent over the number of similar sales in 2015. The per unit average price for buildings in that range was $20,680 in 2015 and $23,550 in 2016, an increase of nearly 14 percent in one year. Fletcher said he expects to see increased demand and sales in L-A’s multi-family sector and that values are likely to continue rising.

In the Brunswick/Topsham area, it appears the retail war between Cook’s Corner and the Topsham Fair Mall areas has subsided. Both shopping centers report overall occupancy rates well above 80 percent, according to Erik Urbanek of SVN, a commercial real estate agency. The redevelopment of Brunswick Landing continues to gain steam as more than 100 companies have relocated to the former naval base creating 1,200-plus jobs.

Craft beer and restaurants are increasing their presence in the Bangor area, where the downtown is “robust,” said Tanya Emery, economic development director for the city. Downtown rehabs are fueled by demand from the residential market and restaurants, she said. That should help stabilize retail in the wake of announcements by Kmart and Macy’s that they are closing their Bangor locations. She expects to see development in existing buildings and in-town housing grow after years of suburban development.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 12:47:09 +0000
Sweden still wants to ban American lobster imports Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:07:31 +0000 Sweden isn’t giving up on a long-running battle with the U.S. and Canada over lobsters that have turned up in Swedish waters.

Officials with Sweden told The Associated Press that their country is working on a new proposal about how to deal with American lobsters that have turned up. A controversy about whether American lobsters are invasive in Swedish waters has simmered for almost a year.

Sweden had wanted the European Union to consider a ban of imports of American lobsters. That call came after Sweden announced it had found 32 American lobsters in its waters.

European Union officials turned away that request in October after American and Canadian scientists and politicians raised concerns about a lack of evidence that the lobsters warranted such a sweeping ban. But Swedish officials told the AP that the country remains concerned that American lobsters could interfere with European lobsters, which have economic value.

“We are preparing a new proposal on national and regional measures on the American lobster that will be presented for the Swedish government this winter,” said Sofia Brockmark, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.

Brockmark and other Swedish officials did not provide more specifics about Sweden’s upcoming proposal, other than that it will address invasive lobsters with countrywide and regional measures as opposed to an international ban.

Maine is the biggest lobster fishing state in the U.S., and the New England lobster industry dug in against Sweden’s proposed ban. America sends about $150 million in lobster to the European Union annually. Canada also sells the same species of lobster to Europe.

Some of the lobsters that were found in Europe were wearing the rubber bands that are put on their claws in captivity. That led to speculation that they were imported lobsters that either escaped into the wild or were released.

Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, said her organization is working with others in the industry, as well as American and Canadian government agencies, to help prevent American lobsters from escaping in Europe.

The effort will include educating buyers in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, Casoni said.

“The goal is to keep them going to Europe and hopefully find some mitigation factors,” she said. “They hold them in pounds just like over here. Sometimes one or two might escape.”

The European Union is of the opinion that the issue now lies with Sweden, said Iris Petsa, a spokeswoman for the EU’s European Commission. She said the country would still need to notify the European Commission before applying restrictions on national trade.

“If Sweden wishes to adopt other measures not affecting trade, they can do so without informing the European Commission,” Petsa said.

]]> 0 American lobsters, also known as Maine lobsters, crowd a food bin at the Burger & Lobster restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden. Chef Anders Westerholm says the imported crustaceans are highly prized at European restaurants and advocates against an all-out ban.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:14:57 +0000
Ex-President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara, both feeling better at hospital Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:59:22 +0000 HOUSTON — Doctors treating former President George H.W. Bush for pneumonia considered Thursday whether to take out a breathing tube while his wife, Barbara, said she was feeling much better after undergoing treatment for bronchitis.

Family spokesman Jim McGrath said physicians for the 92-year-old Bush were evaluating him for removal of the tube, which was inserted Wednesday in a procedure to clear his airway.

The 41st president has been in the intensive care unit at Houston Methodist Hospital since Wednesday, relying on a ventilator to breathe. Removing the tube – a procedure known as extubation – would allow Bush to breathe on his own. He was struggling to breathe when he was admitted to the hospital Saturday.

Bush “had a good night’s rest” and remained in stable condition, McGrath said. “We are hopeful he will be discharged from the ICU in a few days.”

Barbara Bush, 91, was admitted Wednesday and diagnosed with bronchitis after feeling fatigued and coughing for weeks. She reported feeling “1,000 percent better” on Thursday.

“Antibiotics and some good rest seem to have restored her to better health,” McGrath said.

The couple received “an uplifting visit” from longtime friends former Secretary of State James Baker and his wife, Susan, who also live in Houston, McGrath said.

President-elect Donald Trump and President Obama have sent their well wishes, via Twitter and a news conference, respectively. Former President Bill Clinton also tweeted: “41 and Barbara – thinking about you both and sending wishes for a speedy recovery. Love, 42.”

Former President George W. Bush offered thanks Thursday on Instagram for messages “of love and support for Mother and Dad.”

“Your prayers are working: 41 and Mom are doing much better today and fighting on,” he said in his first public comments about their illnesses.

Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush “look forward to representing them” at Trump’s inauguration Friday in Washington “while they continue to recover in Houston.”

Members of the Bush family often spend some of the summer in Maine at their Walker’s Point compound in Kennebunkport.

Even though he was hospitalized, the elder Bush’s Twitter account was active Thursday, offering “hearty congrats” to former Houston Astros baseball player Jeff Bagwell on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

McGrath said while Bush did not physically type the tweet, he did approve it from his hospital room, calling the Astros’ former slugging first baseman a “good friend and great player” and praising his election Wednesday to Cooperstown.

Bush was a first baseman when he attended Yale, and was captain of the Yale team that played in the first College World Series in 1947. As president, he kept his first baseman’s glove in his desk in the Oval Office, and he and his wife have frequently attended Astros games since leaving the White House.

The Bushes were married Jan. 6, 1945, and have had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history. At the time of their wedding, he was a young naval aviator. She had been a student at Smith College.

After World War II, they moved to the Texas oil patch to seek their fortune and raise a family. It was there that George Bush began his political career, representing Houston for two terms in Congress in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

George Herbert Walker Bush, born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, also served as CIA director and Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

]]> 0 President George H. W. BushThu, 19 Jan 2017 20:28:07 +0000
Average 30-year mortgage rate falls to 4.09 percent Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:52:29 +0000 WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates marked their third week of declines this week, after snapping a nine-week run of increases.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans fell to an average 4.09 percent from 4.12 percent last week. That was still sharply higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971. A year ago, the benchmark rate stood at 3.81 percent.

The average for a 15-year mortgage declined to 3.34 percent from 3.37 percent last week.

]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:54:22 +0000
Demand from cannabis-related businesses pushes Portland industrial real estate demand higher Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:35:00 +0000 Demand from cannabis-related businesses helped boost the Portland area’s industrial real estate market in 2016, according to presenters at the annual Maine Real Estate and Development Association conference Thursday.

And with the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Maine, demand for industrially zoned properties is expected to increase even more, they said.

In 2016, medical cannabis-related businesses leased an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 square feet of industrial space in the greater Portland area, according to Justin Lamontagne, partner and broker at NAI The Dunham Group in Portland. He valued those transactions at $15 million to $20 million.

While commercial landlords continue to grapple with questions about legality, insurance liability and financing, Lamontagne said they are generally becoming more comfortable with the idea of leasing space to marijuana-related businesses.

One significant hurdle that remains for cannabis growers and sellers is their inability to obtain traditional bank financing for new construction, he said.

Lamontagne also said he expected interest in cannabis-related real estate to slow down as municipalities and regulators “bring in the rope a little bit” as they consider how to deal with the commercial aspects of legal marijuana.

“The barrier of entry in that market will be higher in 2017,” he predicted.

Drew Sigfridson, managing director of CBRE|The Boulos Co. in Portland, said the November election could have other effects on Maine’s industrial real estate market, but that the full impact is still unknown.

“While national policies will certainly affect us, there are also some local referenda that may impact our market,” Sigfridson said. “Among them are the legalization of recreational marijuana, which we anticipate creating additional demand for industrial and retail space, an increase in the statewide minimum wage, and an additional 3 percent income tax on income over $200,000.”

Vacancy rates for industrial properties in the Portland metro area range from virtually no vacancy in Westbrook (0.5 percent) to 4.8 percent in South Portland, according to Lamontagne. The current industrial vacancy rate in Portland is 1 percent, he said.

Lamontagne pointed to a recent sale in Bayside as an indication of how active that neighborhood has become.

A 4,300-square-foot commercial building at 175 Anderson St. was recently sold to an investment group for $810,000, which was able to attract some long-term tenants, including Magoulian Rugs, said Lamontagne While the overall purchase price may not raise eyebrows, the per square foot price of $200 should. A typical sale price for industrial property is $50 to $55 per square foot.

“It is a very, very hot neighborhood,” he said.

Overall, greater Portland’s vacancy rate has declined from about 3.3 percent in 2011 to 2.3 percent at the end of 2016, he said. Both the average lease rate and sale price per square foot for industrial property have increased every year since 2013, Lamontagne said.


]]> 0 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:10:09 +0000
Demand from cannabis-related businesses pushes Portland industrial real estate demand higher Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:35:00 +0000 Demand from cannabis-related businesses helped boost the Portland area’s industrial real estate market in 2016, according to presenters at the annual Maine Real Estate and Development Association conference Thursday.

And with the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Maine, demand for industrially zoned properties is expected to increase even more, they said.

In 2016, medical cannabis-related businesses leased an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 square feet of industrial space in the greater Portland area, according to Justin Lamontagne, partner and broker at NAI The Dunham Group in Portland. He valued those transactions at $15 million to $20 million.

While commercial landlords continue to grapple with questions about legality, insurance liability and financing, Lamontagne said they are generally becoming more comfortable with the idea of leasing space to marijuana-related businesses.

One significant hurdle that remains for cannabis growers and sellers is their inability to obtain traditional bank financing for new construction, he said.

Drew Sigfridson, managing director of CBRE|The Boulos Co. in Portland, said the November election could have other effects on Maine’s industrial real estate market, but that the full impact is still unknown.

“While national policies will certainly affect us, there are also some local referenda that may impact our market,” Sigfridson said. “Among them are the legalization of recreational marijuana, which we anticipate creating additional demand for industrial and retail space, an increase in the statewide minimum wage, and an additional 3 percent income tax on income over $200,000.”

Vacancy rates for industrial properties in the Portland metro area range from virtually no vacancy in Westbrook (0.5 percent) to 4.8 percent in South Portland, according to Lamontagne. The current industrial vacancy rate in Portland is 1 percent, he said.

Overall, greater Portland’s vacancy rate has declined from about 3.3 percent in 2011 to 2.3 percent at the end of 2016, he said. Both the average lease rate and sale price per square foot for industrial property have increased every year since 2013, Lamontagne said.


]]> 0 this file photo taken Jan. 13, 2015, marijuana plants sit under powerful lamps in a growing facility in Arlington, Wash.Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:24:22 +0000
Real estate conference surveys surging demand, new construction across southern Maine Thu, 19 Jan 2017 14:56:00 +0000 Real estate brokers and developers are bullish about the Portland area’s prospects in 2017, based on a recent surge in demand for both living and working spaces in the region.

Lower unemployment, job growth and strengthening local economies in southern Maine drove continued improvement in the Portland-area office market in 2016, as the vacancy rate fell for the seventh consecutive year to about 6.2 percent.

Meanwhile, investors continued to snap up apartment properties at a frenzied pace, and owners of industrial property welcomed new tenants involved in the production of micro-brewed beer and medical marijuana.

A slew of new construction projects were given the greenlight in 2016 for hotels, office buildings, apartments and condominiums.

Several presenters offered their insights and predictions for the coming year on all things real estate-related at the Maine Real Estate and Development Association’s 2017 Annual Forecast Conference and Member Showcase Thursday in Portland.

]]> 0 development site is right next to a 131-room Courtyard by Marriott completed in 2014, and one street down from where J.B. Brown & Sons is building, in background, 63 apartments in a five-story building with a two-level parking garage at the corner of York and High streets on the former site of the El Rayo Taqueria restaurant and bar.Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:14:24 +0000