News – Press Herald Sun, 22 Oct 2017 21:10:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 LePage withdraws renominations of 5 Maine judges Sun, 22 Oct 2017 20:48:16 +0000 Without saying why, Gov. Paul LePage has withdrawn nominations of five judicial reappointments on the eve of their scheduled confirmation Monday during a special session of the Maine Legislature.

The governor had nominated Justices Robert Murray of Bangor, MaryGay Kennedy of Brunswick and Ann Murray of Bangor for reappointment to the Maine Superior Court and Judges Bruce Jordan of Veazie and Susan Oram of Auburn for reappointment to the Maine District Court. The reappointments had all been approved by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee with participation from members of the LePage administration.

LePage sent five individual withdrawal letters dated Oct. 20 to House Speaker Sara Gideon, but Gideon indicated that she received the letters Sunday, less than 24 hours before the reappointments were scheduled to be confirmed. The letters don’t say why the governor withdrew the nominations.

“The governor’s decision to withdraw these nominations, without any explanation, is deeply troubling,” Gideon said in a written statement. “An independent judiciary is fundamental for the rule of law and the integrity of our system. All Mainers have the right to access the court system in a timely manner and this type of delay could affect the delivery of justice. It is our duty to ensure there is a swift resolution to this matter.”

This story will be updated.



]]> 0 PAUL LePAGESun, 22 Oct 2017 16:51:30 +0000
Firefighters battling Standish barn blaze Sun, 22 Oct 2017 19:05:50 +0000 Firefighters were battling a barn fire at 900 Chadbourne Road in Standish on Sunday afternoon, a Cumberland County dispatcher said.

The fire broke out at about 2 p.m.

Further information was not immediately available.

This story will be updated.

]]> 0 Sun, 22 Oct 2017 16:34:22 +0000
Boy, 7, killed by 2 pit bulls in Massachusetts Sun, 22 Oct 2017 13:50:53 +0000 LOWELL, Mass. — Authorities say a 7-year-old boy was apparently attacked and killed by two pit bulls in Massachusetts.

The Middlesex district attorney’s office says a preliminary investigation suggests the boy was attacked Saturday in Lowell after entering a fenced area where the dogs were located.

Officers responded to a report of an injured child at the home around 6 p.m. and found the boy dead.

Authorities say one of the pit bulls escaped after the attack. The dog was later captured and has been euthanized. The other pit bull is in the custody of the city’s animal control.

The victim has not been identified.

No charges have been filed as of Saturday.

]]> 0 Sun, 22 Oct 2017 16:40:45 +0000
Two-car crash damages Portland cafe, injures 1 Sun, 22 Oct 2017 13:26:54 +0000 One person was hurt in a two-car crash that heavily damaged the Crooked Mile Cafe at the intersection of Brighton Avenue and Stevens Avenue on Sunday morning.

Portland police said alcohol appears to have been a factor in the accident and charges are expected to be filed after the investigation into the 1:45 a.m. crash is complete.

Police said one car was traveling inbound on Brighton Avenue and the other car was traveling on Stevens Avenue toward Congress Street when the cars crashed, sending one spinning into the cafe. One person was taken to Maine Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

The names of the drivers will not be released by police until Monday.

Power to the building was cut off at the cafe, which police said sustained significant damage.


]]> 0 scene tape police car genericSun, 22 Oct 2017 16:38:01 +0000
The Fire of ’47: It devastated the state’s landscape but proved Mainers’ determination like nothing before – or since Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:25 +0000 0 Monday, October 20, a fire that had been mulling underground at North Kennebunkport for almost a week broke out and began to move. Late in the day, fanned by high winds, the fire leaped across Route 1 in (North Kennebunkport) an arc of flames that dwarfed firefighters who stood helplessly by. (Ted Dyer photo Courtesy of the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine) Maine October 1947 fireSun, 22 Oct 2017 10:39:27 +0000 Listen: Survivors describe fleeing and fighting the fires of ’47 Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:24 +0000 Joyce Butler, author of “Wildfire Loose, The Week Maine Burned” continued interviewing survivors of the fires of 1947 after the publication of the book to capture as many of their stories as possible. The recordings of these interviews are held at the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine.

John W. Kelley 

Listen to Dr. John W. Kelley who was a 16-year-old Deering High School student in 1947 when he heeded the call for volunteers and spent two weeks of his Junior year reporting for duty at the Caldwell Post of the American Legion at Woodfords to be bused to fight fires at Brownfield and other areas.


Credit: Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department, University of Maine, Orono NAFOH MF067 NA1230

Mabel Emery and Ruth Gobeil

Mabel Emery and her daughter Ruth Gobeil talk about the day their house exploded as the family fled before the fire. They took refuge at a family member’s cottage at Goose Rocks but they had to flee from that house, ending up in the water to save their lives. And that wasn’t the end of their adventures.


Credit: Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department, University of Maine, Orono NAFOH MF067 NA1231

Jane Cormier Obermeyer

Jane Cormier was a young girl in Bar Harbor when she, along with her mother and 16-year-old sister Helen, had to choose to be evacuated by a small boat in a gale from the town dock or to flee the wind-whipped flames in a truck. She describes that day and the fateful decision that led to the death of her beloved sister.


Credit: Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department, University of Maine, Orono NAFOH MF067 NA1422
]]> 0 October 1947 fireSat, 21 Oct 2017 22:33:49 +0000
Possibility of another monster wildfire may not be as unlikely as you think Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The massive forest fires of 1947 did not result from any single event, such as the severe drought that summer and fall.

Instead, it was a cascade of contributing factors: drought, poor communication, dead wood from the historic 1938 hurricane or winter blowdowns, and untold amounts of “slash” left on the ground by the intensive lumbering operations to supply timber for World War II and the postwar housing boom.

Add in a few carelessly tossed cigarette butts, or errant embers from a cooking fire, and the strong winds of Oct. 21-23 fanned a fast-moving rash of forest fires beyond the capability of Maine’s loosely organized firefighting crews.

“The drought was certainly a factor, but if you didn’t have those winds, it probably wouldn’t have gotten up in the crowns” of the trees, said Kent Nelson, fire prevention and forest ranger specialist with the Maine Forest Service.

The fires were in many ways a wake-up call to communities and the state about the need for more advanced firefighting tools, as well as improved cooperation among towns.

In his 1948 post-fire summary, Deputy Forest Commissioner Austin Wilkins laid out his argument for more state coordination.

“It is frankly admitted that there was no fire control action plan to meet such a conflagration,” Wilkins wrote. “Certainly there was insufficient equipment and preparation for forest fire fighting operations on such a gigantic scale. As previously stated, the municipalities had always handled their own fires. It was only when the fires spread beyond town lines and whole communities were engulfed or threatened that the State Forestry Department was asked to take over.”

A forest fire prevention film produced by the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign based on, and with footage of the 1947 fires in Maine

The ’47 fires resulted in major changes, locally and regionally.

Many local fire departments launched fundraisers to purchase modern tanker and pumper trucks or other equipment. Other towns organized fire departments for the first time.

In Augusta, the Legislature gave Maine’s forest commissioner authority over fire control statewide rather than only within the Unorganized Territory, as had been the case in 1947. The state led an aggressive fire-prevention campaign and helped towns obtain equipment.

During the 1947 fires, spotter planes circling overhead could see the flames but often had no way of communicating with firefighting crews on the ground, short of landing and sending a courier. Town fire chiefs and state rangers also lacked effective communication tools, which greatly hampered firefighting crews’ ability to work together or shift the focus to hotter areas.

But by 1950, all forest rangers in the organized portions of the state were armed with wireless radio equipment to improve communication. The state also built new fire towers around Maine.

Additionally, in June 1949, Congress created the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact that allowed all of the New England states plus New York to provide mutual aid and equipment in the event of a forest fire and collaborate on training. The compact was subsequently expanded to take in five Canadian provinces, including Maine’s neighbors of Quebec and New Brunswick.

Maine forest rangers and wildland fire fighting teams now help battle blazes in Quebec, where large-scale events are more common, as well as in other states. And if another large-scale fire erupted in Maine, Quebec could hypothetically provide the air tankers capable of dropping massive amounts of water on the flames – much more so than the fire baskets employed by Maine helicopters.

Nelson, at the Maine Forest Service, listed the compact among the most significant developments linked directly to the 1947 fires. “The main thing we see on an almost daily basis is the training,” Nelson said. “We don’t have as many fires in the Northeast as they do out West . . . and for us to put on higher-level training courses, one state doesn’t have the buying power to put that together.”

All that being said, such anniversaries inevitably beg the question: Could it happen again?

Experts say a fire on the scale of the 1947 conflagration is certainly less likely, given the enormous improvements in communications, monitoring and firefighting equipment in Maine during the past 70 years. Maine’s wet climate, ecologically diverse forests and topography are different from that of many western states where massive spring- and summertime forest fires have unfortunately become the norm. Yet the late-fall fires near the Great Smoky Mountains in 2016 – which killed 14 and caused an estimated $500 million in damage in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, alone – underscored that large-scale, destructive forest fires are not merely a western problem.

Nelson pointed out that the “load” of combustible dead trees, sticks and other materials in southern Maine’s forests “is going up and up.”

“We have not had as many fires that consumed those fuels, and there is more development,” Nelson said. “So from the fuel load perspective, the potential for a 1947-type fire is there.”

Joyce Butler, who wrote the 1977 book “Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned” and talked to countless Mainers who lived through the 1947 fires, also believes the potential is there.

“Absolutely, it could happen,” Butler said. “The fires started because of conditions in nature, and that could still be the case if we have a drought . . . and if everything was dry in the woods and there is slash in the woods. Sure, the firefighters are better prepared, but if nature goes on a rampage, that is the governing force.”

William Patterson, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who specializes in forest ecology and fire management, said New England has cyclical dry spells resulting in drought during September and October. That was the case in 1947, and it appears to be the case today given the drought conditions in 2016 and 2017. In fact, the current drought index on Mount Desert Island is nearly as high as it was in 1947, Patterson said.

Patterson said firefighters certainly have better tools, monitoring and communication than they did in 1947. But even with his decades of research on forest fires, Patterson said “it blew my mind” to see such large, destructive fires last year in the Great Smoky Mountains around Thanksgiving, which is not typically a fire-prone season.

“So I’m not counting anything out,” he said.


]]> 0 for Hutchins(spelling unclear) farm at North Kennebunkport. (Press Herald-Evening Express photo) Maine October 1947 fireSun, 22 Oct 2017 06:12:18 +0000
Addicts may benefit from an expansion of Medicaid Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Medicaid expansion would substantially jump-start access to opioid addiction treatment for low-income Mainers at a time when the state is struggling to reduce drug overdoses and contain the opioid epidemic.

But whether a positive vote on the Nov. 7 ballot question would translate into reduced overdose deaths or an overall alleviation of the opioid crisis is difficult to predict, health experts say.

“Medicaid expansion gives people an on-ramp for medication-assisted treatment, which is the gold standard for opioid treatment,” said Dr. Richard Frank, a Harvard Medical School professor of health economics and former Obama administration official who helped implement the Affordable Care Act.

Frank said many factors contribute to the opioid crisis, so it’s not certain yet whether states that have expanded Medicaid have a head start on mitigating the epidemic. Part of the problem, he said, is that the opioid problem was generally worse in Medicaid expansion states before the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2013.

“We haven’t been able to sort that out yet,” Frank said. “This crisis has been 20 years in the making. This is not something you can turn around quickly.”

If voters approve the referendum, Maine would join 31 other states that have expanded Medicaid. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a steadfast opponent of expansion, has vetoed five attempts by the Legislature to approve expansion, which is a cornerstone of the ACA but voluntary for states.

Proponents of expansion view access to opioid treatment as one of the tangible benefits of expansion. Opponents say Medicaid expansion would bust the state’s budget, pointing to a previous expansion that was followed by repeated budget deficits.

About 70,000 Mainers would be eligible for benefits if voters approve the ballot question. Currently, about 265,000 Mainers have Medicaid coverage.

It’s difficult to say how many of those 70,000 need treatment for opioid addiction. A study of four states by the Government Accountability Office estimated that 13 percent to 35 percent of the Medicaid expansion population in the states of New York, West Virginia, Iowa and Washington abused or were dependent on opioids.

If 15 percent to 35 percent of the expansion population in Maine had an opioid problem, that would translate to 10,000 to 25,000 people who could seek medication-assisted treatment under Medicaid.

Medication-assisted treatment pairs counseling with drugs such as Suboxone, methadone and Vivitrol, which reduce the cravings associated with addiction. Research shows that this is the most effective treatment method to prevent people from relapsing into opioid use. In Maine, 376 people died of a drug overdose in 2016 – a record high – and 2017 is shaping up to be similar, with 185 deaths through June 30.


Access to medication-assisted treatment in Maine is difficult to come by. In Scarborough, the police department’s Operation Hope sends many people out of state for treatment because of the lack of options in Maine.

Those in the treatment community say that without insurance, addicts find themselves on a “hamster wheel,” in which they overdose and, if they survive, go to a hospital emergency room before being sent home. The cycle then repeats, and paramedics and hospitals often see the same people struggling with addiction and no access to treatment.

This cycle is straining the resources of hospitals – especially rural hospitals that are already struggling financially, according to federal data. Nationally, there were about 140,000 opioid-related hospital visits in the fourth quarter of 2014, but visits by uninsured patients declined in that time period from 41,150 in 2013 to 29,000 as most states expanded Medicaid.

In Maine, opioid-related visits totaled 1,100 in the fourth quarter of 2014, but those without insurance grew from 300 in 2013 to 400 in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Jeffrey Austin, vice president of government affairs for the Maine Hospital Association, said hospitals’ emergency departments have an “uncompensated care burden” when the uninsured overdose.

“Coverage is a good thing for all medical conditions, but there is clearly a need for more coverage for those in need of help with substance use disorders, particularly those that are opioid-related,” Austin said. The hospital association supports Medicaid expansion.

The uninsured dynamic is pronounced at Milestone Recovery, which operates a detox center in Portland.

Bob Fowler, Milestone’s executive director, said the center used to get patients with Medicaid, but now more patients are uninsured, as their addictions make them unstable and they lose their jobs. The LePage administration tightened eligibility for Medicaid so that childless adults would not qualify, and made it more difficult for parents to qualify for Medicaid.

These are “the very same people who are coming to Milestone, and they don’t have Medicaid anymore,” Fowler said.


The agency had a $3.7 million budget in 2011, before the Medicaid cutbacks, and that has dwindled to $3.1 million in 2017, Fowler said. Medicaid funding declined from $1.9 million to $586,000 during that time.

“It has had a strangling effect,” Fowler said, as Milestone has had to cut staffing. The program’s Old Orchard Beach residential recovery program often has empty beds because not enough people have Medicaid, and the program can’t afford to give too many people free care.

Fowler said people discharged from detox would have more options with Medicaid, including residential and outpatient treatment programs, instead of going home and falling into the trap of using again.

Kirk Carlsen, a housing navigator at Milestone, said he was one of the lucky ones. His heroin addiction was at its worst when he checked in to Milestone’s detox program on New Year’s Day 2013. As a childless adult, he had Medicaid, but it was set to be cut off by the LePage administration in 2014.

Carlsen had a year to straighten his life out, and having Medicaid – called MaineCare in the state – gave him access to counseling and Suboxone. After a year, he got a part-time job working for Milestone and was able to obtain insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and now he has a full-time job and employer-based insurance.

“MaineCare was a lifesaver for me,” said Carlson, 53. “I would be dead or in jail right now.”

Many in the expansion population can get insurance now through the Affordable Care Act, a point emphasized by state Rep. Karen Vachon, R-Scarborough, an expansion opponent. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that about 21,000 Mainers who earn between 100 and 150 percent of the federal poverty limit have ACA insurance. If Maine approves expansion, those earning between 0 and 138 percent of the poverty limit would go on Medicaid.

Vachon said it would be better for that group to stay on private insurance through the ACA.

“People would rather have private insurance and have a job, rather than be on welfare,” she said.


Vachon maintains that a bill she has proposed to help the uninsured would be a better solution than Medicaid. The bill, which she said stalled out this year in the Legislature but will be reconsidered in the next session, would devote more than $6 million a year to expand opioid treatment to help the uninsured.

She said the idea would be to give medication-assisted treatment to people struggling with addiction and then get them working as quickly as possible, so they would then qualify for ACA insurance. Those who are unemployed but find jobs qualify for “special enrollment” and can fairly quickly get ACA insurance, Vachon said.

“With private insurance, people would have access to a stronger provider network, the insurance has better reimbursement rates for doctors and better access to care,” she said. “We can move them off of welfare, get them jobs and help more people.”

But Dr. Lisa Letourneau, a public health expert who previously served on the Maine Opioid Collaborative, said that Medicaid expansion is by far the best option to provide access to treatment. The federal government would pay for more than 90 percent of the cost of expansion, and Letourneau said the state would tap into that money for treatment.

The Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review estimated the state would spend $93 million in state tax dollars on expansion through 2019, but receive nearly $1.2 billion in federal funds.

“There is no magical money for treatment without doing expansion,” Letourneau said. “Providing access to treatment for people with addiction is critically important both to the state as a whole and to those individuals and families. They have real and significant barriers to care. These are evidence-based treatments that we know will help them with their recovery.”

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0 Carlsen is a housing coordinator at Milestone Foundation on India Street. He is also in recovery from opioid addiction. He received help from Medicaid to help him toward sobriety. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:46:56 +0000
Michelle Singletary: Data breaches no laughing matter Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The epic Equifax data breach could make for some creative Halloween costumes. If there’s a contest, I bet you’ll win if you dress up like a horrifying hacker holding stolen credit reports.

Editorial cartoonists have certainly captured the rampant sense of dread and fear. Signe Wilkinson’s depiction of the compromise of 145.5 million consumer files by Equifax reflects the attitude of many folks I’ve been hearing from. The cartoon portrays two people buying coffee. The first customer is paying with plastic and says, “I’m afraid my credit card will be hacked!” The other says, “I’m not.”

Why isn’t the second customer worried?

She’s buying her coffee with cash.

A cartoon from Nick Anderson speaks volumes. In it, an elderly couple is in the office of an Equifax executive whom they tell, “We’re dropping your creditability rating to zero.”

The hole Equifax left in its computer system exposed Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers. Hackers also got addresses and birth dates.

The breach left people afraid and in search of information. Here are some recent questions I received. I relayed the first two to an Equifax spokesperson.

Q: Did the hackers in the Equifax breach gain access to my credit- freeze PIN number?

Equifax: The PINs associated with security freezes were not impacted by the breach.

Q: My son lives in Spain with his wife and baby. All three have Social Security numbers. I asked him to go to the Equifax site to see whether their info had been hacked. He emailed me that the site was blocked to people overseas. Is this the case?

Equifax: No, the site is not blocked to people overseas. However, there are some situations where an IP address may be restricted, due to where the person lives.

Q: I took advantage of the Equifax-offered credit lock. However, from my research, it appears that I would also need to lock my credit with Experian and TransUnion, and it does not seem that Equifax covers me for those costs (Experian is $25 a month!) Do you have any suggestions or know how others are dealing with this?

Michelle: Right now, Equifax is waiving the fee to get a freeze, but it only covers your file at that bureau. You can also get a free lock on your credit file at Equifax.

But one freeze or credit lock does not work for all. You have to get a freeze or lock at each credit bureau.

To get access to the free freeze at Equifax, go to www.equifax Be sure to elect for a freeze, not a lock. You can’t do both.

Consumer experts advise opting for a freeze because the rules for it are state regulated. A lock is a feature offered by the credit bureaus, which essentially does the same thing as a freeze, but the rules of how it works are dictated by the credit bureau.

You can freeze your Experian report at Do the same with TransUnion at securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp

While you’re at it, also freeze your report at a fourth, smaller bureau, Innovis:

You might also consider putting a freeze on at the consumer agency ChexSystems: This is the bureau that financial institutions use to verify that you have a good history of managing bank or credit-union accounts.

Q: I have had a freeze for many years with the three major credit bureaus on my wife and myself. Should I still sign up for Equifax’s free TrustedID Premier monitoring service?

Michelle: This question brings up why a freeze is better than credit monitoring.

With a credit freeze, a new creditor can’t get access to your credit file. Without being able to view your credit report, the lender isn’t likely to approve your credit application.

A credit monitoring service reports identity theft incidents to you after the fact. In other words, the damage could already be done. You might get a notice that someone is looking at your credit file, and you could have time to act before credit is opened in your name. But with the instant granting of credit today, notice from a credit monitoring service might not come soon enough.

Q: I registered for the TrustedID service and Equifax said I should receive an email within a few days and that I should be patient. I’d read elsewhere that it could take quite a while. Well, I received the email to finalize the registration within a few minutes! Should I be concerned?

Michelle: No, count yourself fortunate. Some people are reporting no delay. Others are still having trouble signing up.

The cartoons help provide some comic relief. But the questions I continue to get from scared consumers are no laughing matter.

Michelle Singletary is a money columnist for the Washington Post. Readers may write her at:

Twitter: @SingletaryM

]]> 0 Fri, 20 Oct 2017 19:10:50 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Headlines show how far Maine has come Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Daily news stories, more often than not, serve as signs of the times.

Two from last week – one that took off, the other, not so much – showed just how far Maine has progressed when it comes to sexual orientation.

Let’s start with the snoozer.

On Thursday, Bangor Daily News reporter Chris Cousins called Michael Heath, onetime leader of all things anti-LGBTQ in Maine, to ask about Heath’s latest crusade to strike the words “sexual orientation” from the Maine Human Rights Act.

The call was timely. Heath, who began circulating his petitions 18 months ago along with a ragtag group called Maine Resistance, had until Saturday to turn in the required 61,123 signatures to force a statewide vote on his citizen initiative.

“No, I am not going to file it,” Heath replied when asked if he was ready to roll. According to the newspaper, he then declined to answer any more questions.

He didn’t need to.

Anyone who watched Heath in his heyday, with that self-righteous smirk and those over-the-top condemnations cherry-picked from the Old Testament, knows that if he had the signatures for yet another ballot battle, the whole world would know it by now.

Instead, we get an eight-word quote and … kaput. Maine Resistance may have earned a spot on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s registry of hate groups last February, but when it comes to mobilizing the conservative Christian masses in this neck of the woods, Mainers clearly have moved on.

Even in these times of constant trouble, that counts as a good thing.

So does what happened last week at Gray-New Gloucester High School, where newly sacked football coach Duane Greaton’s tongue is tied even more tightly than Heath’s.

It’s hard to fathom what prompted Greaton to tell his players, as they prepared to play Yarmouth High School on Oct. 13, to taunt an opposing player with “Who’s your daddy?” whenever they tackled him because the kid’s parents are both women.

Maybe it’s because both teams were 0-6 heading into the game and Greaton, terrified of being labeled a complete loser, resolved to do anything he could to post a victory. (Karma kicked in and Yarmouth won, 13-6.)

Maybe Greaton, hired earlier this year despite protests that he was neither fit nor qualified to lead budding young men onto the gridiron, actually believed that when it comes to motivating your troops, a little homophobia can go a long way.

Or maybe Greaton, like Heath, hadn’t noticed how far the social pendulum has swung on LGBTQ rights until it smacked him in his thick head.

Whatever his rationale – he’s not talking – it backfired.

His players, rather than taunt the opposing player as instructed, instead blew the whistle on their coach. By Monday, Greaton was out of a job.

Again, that’s a good thing. As Bob Dylan wrote more than half a century ago, “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand, for the times, they are a changin’.”

What makes the Greaton story so noteworthy isn’t that a football coach had his head so far up his derriere that he couldn’t see how far he’d strayed from the Maine Principals’ Association’s advice to all coaches in all sports:

“It is your responsibility, as their coach, to ensure that your athletes leave their high school days having learned the values of integrity, citizenship and respect for others that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.”

Rather, the story of the Gray-New Gloucester Patriots stands out because of its inherent – and uplifting – role reversal.

It’s the story of how an adult, a person in a position of authority, tried to take his young charges down a dark path. And how the kids, much to their collective credit, dug in their heels and said no way, coach, we’re not going there.

In fact, by the opening kickoff against Yarmouth, Greaton’s gambit had failed so spectacularly that in addition to his players, school officials, the referees and parents on both sides (including the mothers of the Yarmouth player) all knew about it and were on the lookout for anything even resembling a taunt.

Not to worry. The kids already had this.

Just as countless Mainers, when asked by Heath and his holy warriors if they’d sign yet another petition pushing anyone who isn’t heterosexual back into society’s shadows, undoubtedly shook their heads and said, “No thanks. I’m good.”

“The current law has been working for more than a decade, and (Heath’s) initiative was a blatant effort to turn back the clock and single out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people so that it would once again be legal to fire them, deny them housing, or kick them out of a restaurant simply because of who they are,” said state Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland, executive director of Equality Maine, in an email Saturday.

“Those aren’t Maine values,” he said. “And Michael Heath represents a radical fringe element that is completely out of touch with the will of the people.”

Moonen nonetheless worries that, while the fight to enshrine sexual orientation in the Maine Human Rights Act was won long ago here, the battle to protect those rights on the wider national stage goes on.

“Serious threats are coming from the new administration in Washington, D.C.,” he noted, adding that Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin, for one, has voted “in lockstep” with President Trump on anti-LGBTQ discrimination ranging from federal contract awards to service in the military.

Moonen’s right. For all Maine’s gains when it comes to treating one another with dignity and respect, there will always be those who see sexual orientation not as a God-given right, but as a tackling dummy.

Still, last week’s headlines remind us just how far Maine has come.

Duane Greaton’s short, shameful career as a football coach is history.

And Michael Heath’s petitions went out with the trash.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

]]> 0, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Sat, 21 Oct 2017 16:57:09 +0000
Maine school moves to reverse shortage of rural lawyers Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Maine’s got a lawyer problem.

A rural lawyer problem, specifically. There aren’t many of them to start with, and more than 65 percent of them are over 50 years old. To combat that shortage, the state’s only law school is offering students paid summer fellowships to work in law offices in rural areas, and a state lawmaker is proposing an income tax credit aimed at attracting new lawyers to underserved areas of the state.

“It’s an access-to-justice issue,” said Rep. Donna Bailey, a lawyer and Democrat from Saco who recently submitted the bill to the revisor’s office. Bailey said the bill will be modeled on the successful income tax credit program offered to dentists who work in underserved areas. That pilot program was renewed last session and funded again.

“We’re trying to find creative ways to attract lawyers to underserved areas,” Bailey said.

Maine has 5,319 active attorneys, and 3,939 of them live in-state. That works out to about 30 resident lawyers per 10,000 residents, lower than the national average of 40 lawyers per 10,000 residents. In New England, the per capita average is 53 lawyers per 10,000 residents.

But experts say it’s not about the per capita figures. It’s the distribution of those lawyers.

In Maine, more than half of resident attorneys – 51 percent – live or work in Cumberland County. Add in Kennebec, Penobscot and York counties and fully 80 percent of the state’s lawyers are located in just four of Maine’s16 counties.

It’s a critical problem for people who do not have access to a lawyer, said Danielle Conway, dean of the University of Maine School of Law in Portland. It’s the only law school in the state, and graduates between 70 and 90 students a year.

“If people can’t access it and depend on it, then they stop depending on the law,” Conway said. “We can’t have people question the rule of law. And lawyers represent the rule of law.”

Conway launched the new “Rural Practice Fellowship” pilot program this summer, with two students paid by the school to work with attorneys in rural practices. It introduces the students to rural practice and, hopefully, to pursue a career there, Conway said.

Student Ryan Rutledge said one of the best things about the fellowship at the Bemis and Rossignol law firm in Presque Isle was the chance to work on many different areas of law. In a rural law practice, much like a country doctor’s, the lone lawyer in town has to be able to handle all the legal issues that come up, from selling a piece of land to representing a client on criminal charges.

“I have been fully immersed in everything that this firm does,” Rutledge said in a phone call during the summer, midway through his fellowship. “At the big firms in Portland, it’s all sectioned off and everyone has a role to play. Up here, there’s just a lot more going on. Because there’s not a lot of attorneys, the attorneys here have to be well versed in many areas of the law instead of just specializing.”

The fellowship has given him some perspective on what kind of job he wants after graduation.

“In Portland (law school graduates) are all fighting over the bigger firms. They’re going to be paid a little bit more, but everyone is fighting for those positions,” he said. “But I think the cost of living is so much lower and you are going to get more experience in a rural area in your first few years than you would in a firm in Portland.”

It will also mean diving right in to a full, busy career, he said.

“It’s kind of like drinking from a fire hose. You are thrown at everything a senior attorney is going to do because they need the manpower. In Portland, for the first one or two years, you’re going to be seated at a desk, doing exactly what someone tells you to do,” he said.

In addition to the summer fellowship, the students attend workshops and seminars during the school year. It is open to two students in each class, for six students total. Conway said they hope first-year students will return for second- and third-year experiences, so they will be in the program for their entire law school career. The program would be expanded if funding becomes available, she said.

Conway said the school pays fellows $6,000 the first and second year, and $7,500 the third year, easing the burden of $23,500 in-state tuition per year.

Jacqueline Rogers of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar said the rural lawyers shortage is an issue nationwide. Maine is just particularly hard hit since it’s a “gray state,” second only to Florida in percentage of residents over age 65.

Several states have set up similar programs to encourage more young lawyers to consider rural areas.

In Oregon, Vermont and Nebraska, the state bar awards fellowships and places law school students in rural locations during the summers. In South Dakota, where the rural lawyer shortage is so severe that the American Bar Association says there is a “very real possibility of whole sections of South Dakota being without access to legal services,” the state bar has partnered with multiple organizations, including county commissioners and local retailers, to cultivate rural lawyers.

In 2013 South Dakota drew national attention when it became the first state to pay young lawyers to relocate permanently to rural areas – up to $12,000 a year for five years – and ran a website matching lawyers with communities or with other lawyers seeking a successor.

“We need to see an influx of younger lawyers. That isn’t panning out yet,” Rogers said, noting that many lawyers in Maine will be retiring in the next five to 10 years. In Maine, 44 percent of resident attorneys are over the age of 60 and 12 percent are under 35, according to the most recent annual report of the Board of Overseers of the Bar.

Falmouth attorney Lowell Brown has long championed the need to attract young lawyers to rural Maine.

“The whole legal system really turns on whether people know what their rights are. The law is sufficiently complex now, that unless you have access to a lawyer, you can’t understand that. People’s rights are being denied to them, and not because of some grand conspiracy but because they don’t have access to the resources that allow them to participate in the justice system,” Brown said.

“That’s why I think this initiative is so important.”

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

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 Rutledge, a law student at University of Maine Law School, spent 10 weeks interning at a practice in Presque Isle, as a part of a new fellowship to deal with the shortage of lawyers practicing in rural parts of the state.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:49:48 +0000
On Peaks, horse farm caught in crossfire as newcomers buck long-held local views Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Jeanann Alves has been bringing together rescue horses and disadvantaged youth on Peaks Island for nearly two decades. But an ongoing neighborhood feud involving Portland officials could force the Horse Island Camp to close.

Alves leases land from Thomas Covington Johnson, a 58-year-old lobsterman who does business as Island Bay Services. The man known as “Covey,” who has been on the island since he was a child, has clashed with his new neighbors, Rory and Timmi Sellers, since they moved in next door four years ago.

The most recent flare-up was sparked when Timmi Sellers complained about a shed being built by one of Johnson’s tenants in a city-designated wetland. A city inspection resulted in the citation of 11 unpermitted buildings, many of which belonged to Alves, and an illegal tractor-trailer used for storing hay and alfalfa for rescue horses.

Johnson appealed, but on Sept. 21 the city’s zoning board upheld the violations.

“The option is to remove the buildings or to get a permit for them,” said Ann Machado, the city zoning administrator.

Johnson said he plans to challenge in court the prohibition against having a commercial trailer on his property, and he maintains that the horse shelters do not need permits because they’re on a farm.

Without an inexpensive, convenient way to ship and store feed for the horses, Alves said the camp might have to close. If that happens, most of the horses – those that have partial blindness, cleft palates, injuries or are simply old – could meet the fate they narrowly avoided before arriving on the island: euthanization.

“I’m really stuck in the crossfire here,” said Alves, whose roots on Peaks Island date back to the late 1800s. “I have people who want to protest in front of houses, but I squashed that. Everybody’s up in arms about it and I’m trying very hard to let the dust settle.”

The conflict highlights a longstanding rift between longtime Peaks Island residents, newcomers and the city of Portland, and how change inherently collides with tradition.

“People move here from out of state and try to change the island to their liking,” said Rick Callow, a 57-year-old fisherman who has lived on Peaks since 1969. His hand was severed during a fishing accident last year, but was reattached and has healed to the point where he offers a strong handshake. “When they start to change the rules – that’s just not the way to do it.”

The island is part of Maine’s largest city, despite two previous efforts to secede. Many longtime islanders remain fiercely independent, if not defiant, scoffing at attempts from outsiders, including city officials, to change their way of life.

Timmi Sellers, who bought her home in 2013, said in an interview that she regrets that the horse camp was dragged into the dispute. However, she defended her concern about the unpermitted development of wetlands.

“I never intended to shut down the island horse camp, which is what people on the island are accusing me of,” Sellers said. “At the same time I do think the buildings are unsafe. And everyone should follow the same rules.”

Sellers also stressed the importance of following rules established by the city of Portland.

“There is still this old island mentality: ‘I can do whatever I want on my property,’ ” she said, “but we are part of the city of Portland.”


On March 20, “Covey” Johnson received a notice of violation from the city’s zoning office for the unpermitted structures, most of which were movable, three-sided shelters for horses.

During the Sept. 21 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Johnson and his attorney Nick Bull argued that the landowner was not responsible for the unpermitted buildings, because they were built and owned by horse owners leasing his land. But he maintained they didn’t need permits because they’re on a farm, which he says is exempt from the city’s zoning. They also argued that the city does not have a permitting process in place for buildings on skids so they can be moved when land gets worn down.

“Every farm in the state has animal shelters they move around,” Johnson said in an interview. “I don’t know why they’re spending taxpayer money fighting a farm.”

So-called right-to-farm laws do protect farmers from nuisance complaints from neighbors and exempts them from some municipal ordinances. However, city officials maintain those exemptions do not include building permits, which can be issued for movable structures, even if the permit application is not set up for it.

“There are some activities that are protected by the Farm (Protection) Act, as well as the exemption from building standards … however, there is no general exemption from city regulation for farms,” City Attorney Anne Torregrossa said in an email.

It was the second time in three years that city officials were called to the island to investigate a complaint from Sellers.

In 2014, city inspectors issued Johnson a violation notice for allegedly clearing brush in wetlands, operating a commercial composting business, keeping commercial vehicles in a residential zone and using a camper as an illegal dwelling unit.

The Zoning Board of Appeals overruled all of the violations, except for the commercial vehicles, based largely on the fact that Johnson was operating a farm, a use controlled by the Farmland Protection Act.

Former Zoning Administrator Marge Schmuckal wrote at the time that Johnson had received permission from the city in 1988 to raise and keep domestic animals. She said she was “not aware of the broad reaching effect” of the Farmland Protection Act when the citations were issued.

“Apparently the Farmland Protection Act also applies to and supersedes the shoreland zone regulations,” she wrote.

Schmuckal also conceded that using commercial vehicles to service the farm could also be covered by the Farmland Protection Act, even though it was not permitted by the city’s zoning code.

“Only commercial vehicles used for the applicant’s on-premise farmland agriculture uses could be covered by state law,” she wrote.


Last month, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to uphold the city order that Johnson remove a tractor-trailer container that is used to import and store hay and alfalfa for the horses, as well as get permits for or remove the horse shelters. The decision came after a heated public hearing that caused Johnson to abruptly leave.

Johnson was clearly frustrated about having to defend his farming activities again before the board. He said that his property is a registered farm and not subject to the city’s zoning rules. He noted that the horse shelters were not a problem when the city inspected the property in 2014.

“I feel like I resolved this three and half years ago, and here we are again,” Johnson told the board.

Johnson said his farm is registered with the state and federal governments, which require that he produce at least $2,000 worth of product a year. That product, he said in an interview, has ranged from manure, to firewood, to vegetables, to livestock such as chickens, pigs and turkeys. He said he files reports every few years to maintain that status.

Separately, city officials confirmed to the Maine Sunday Telegram that the property has been receiving a special tax benefit for farmland since 1992. However, the newspaper was unable to confirm that his farm was registered.

During the appeals board hearing, Timmi Sellers argued that Johnson’s was not a registered farm, citing the city’s new Comprehensive Plan. “The city of Portland says there are no farms in Portland,” she said.

Officials at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said they have offered to help mediate the dispute.

“No one has accepted our offer to date,” said John Bott, the department’s communications director. “We are not offering an opinion on the local control issue and we have never been to the site.”

Complicating these zoning matters appears to be a hostile relationship between Johnson and the Sellers family.


Rory and Timmi Sellers, computer programmer and registered nurse, respectively, bought their home in May 2013, according to city tax records. Within a few months, Timmi Sellers had a confrontation with Johnson, who has lived there for 40 years, as they walked their shared property line.

According to court documents, Johnson was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly “brandishing a machete” at Sellers and making offensive comments and gestures. The charge was dismissed in court.

The following year, Sellers complained to the city about the clearing of wetlands. Schmuckal, the zoning administrator at the time, noted the personal conflict in a memo to the board. “I have no comment regarding the ongoing disputes between the abutters,” she said.

Sellers currently has a restraining order against Johnson. In court documents, Sellers said she received a text message from Johnson at 5:34 a.m. on Sept. 23 – two days after the heated city meeting – saying: “your (sic) no friend of Peaks Island the island will turn on you wait and see have a wonderful time it should be fun.” She also noted that her golf cart had been vandalized on the night of the appeals board meeting. Her husband believes someone doused it with fox urine, a liquid with a pungent odor that can be purchased and used to repel deer and other pests.

A hearing on the order is scheduled for Oct. 23, but Sellers is seeking a delay since she will be out of town.

During last month’s zoning meeting, Bull, Johnson’s attorney, accused Sellers of “trying to whipsaw Mr. Johnson and his corporation by using the municipal offices of the city of Portland.” He said the real issue was a right of way that passed by the Sellerses’ home, which has wood and stone sculptures as well as several sheds, that was used by Johnson’s tenants to receive hay deliveries.

Rory Sellers disputed that claim and described Johnson’s comments as slander and libel. A clearly frustrated Johnson abruptly left the meeting, telling Sellers that, because of ongoing legal fees, “I can’t afford to put my daughter through college because of you and your wife.”

Johnson said he’s so frustrated that he’s willing to sell his 25 to 30 acres of land, if the right offer comes along, so it can be developed into housing, just like Camelot Farm, a former agricultural property in Portland’s Stroudwater neighborhood that is slated to be turned into about 95 single-family homes.


Until then, Johnson said he plans to take the city to court over its prohibition of commercial vehicles and storage containers on his property.

Alves said she is taking a wait-and-see approach, since she has been asked by Johnson not to apply for permits.

Even with permits for the horse shelters, which she admits “aren’t pretty,” Alves said she’d be unable to meet the city’s demands, since she can’t afford to build a barn large enough to store all of the hay, alfalfa and grain that is needed during the winter.

But Alves, who works full time in Portland public schools and keeps horses as a labor of love, has faith things will work out for the camp, which offers horseback riding tours throughout the island. She said her horse camp usually breaks even, but it is not a registered nonprofit.

Yet she is hesitant to accept reservations for next year at the camp, which has rescued not only injured, neglected and abandoned horses, but also kids who are trying to overcome personal tragedies, disabilities and other challenges. The camp offers hourly rides around the island, as well as mini day camps, which offer arts, crafts, hands-on horse education, and other activities.

She has faith that her animals will somehow be allowed to live out their final hours at Horse Island Camp. Alves is known in the horse owner community as offering a home for retired or injured race and draft horses, as well as other horses and donkeys whose owners can no longer care for them. Otherwise, such animals would have been euthanized.

Animals like Jerome, the donkey popular with the kids; Buster, the lazy racehorse; Black Dawn, the half-blind mare; Mr. Dumpling, the bossy mini-horse featured in a children’s book authored by Alves; Boo Bear, a former logging horse; and Mercury, who was one of the farm’s first and oldest horses.

“I just have a feeling that everything will be fine,” Alves said. “These horses have been here longer than most people on the island.”

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

Twitter: randybillings

]]> 0 Island Camp owner Jeanann Alves, 58, a lifelong resident of Peaks Island, feeds Duke. "I'm trying very hard to let the dust settle," she said about the feud that threatens the camp's future.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 22:13:03 +0000
Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram win general excellence awards Sun, 22 Oct 2017 02:50:00 +0000 The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram won the first-place general excellence awards Saturday in the Maine Press Association’s 2017 Better Newspaper Contest.

The Press Herald won in the category of daily print newspaper, while the Sunday Telegram won for weekend print publication.

“So many good things to say about the Maine Sunday Telegram,” the judges wrote. “Great writing, well organized, elegant design. Important news stories and lifestyle features. This is the total package.”

The judges praised the Press Herald for its “strong writing and beautiful photography” and also said its “Lost” series – about the victims of opioid addiction – “made for compelling journalism.”

Also Saturday, the press association named Carla McGuire of the Kennebec Journal its salesperson of the year.

The honors were announced Saturday night at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center in Bar Harbor, during the association’s annual fall conference.

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Flip through the pages of photographs published immediately after the 1947 fires Sun, 22 Oct 2017 01:00:52 +0000

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Schoolgirl awed by wildfire grows up to pen definitive account Sun, 22 Oct 2017 01:00:25 +0000 Author and historian Joyce Butler’s book, “Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned,” is widely considered the definitive history of the 1947 forest fires that scorched more than 200,000 acres and left an estimated 2,500 Mainers homeless.

The 1979 book has been reprinted three times (most recently in paperback in 2014) and continues to be used in schools as well as cited by journalists or authors revisiting the 1947 fires.

But Butler made an arguably even bigger contribution to Maine history by having the foresight to record her lengthy interviews with the men and women who fought, lost homes to or simply witnessed Maine’s most destructive forest fires. While many of those people are no longer alive, their firsthand accounts (as well as their voices and dialects) are preserved 70 years after the fires altered the landscape and collective memory of Maine.

“It was definitely burned into their memories,” Butler said of the dozens of people she interviewed for her book. “It was frightening, too, because without the communications we have now, people didn’t know where the fire was, where to go and how to get out.”

Butler was a young schoolgirl living in Portland when she remembers seeing smoke rising from Maine State Pier on Oct. 23, 1947 – a day that would become known as “Red Thursday” for the fiery destruction around the state. Much of the pier burned down, a fact that would have been huge news on a day when entire communities – such as Bar Harbor, Newfield and South Waterboro – weren’t being consumed or threatened by walls of flames.

“The air was full of smoke and I remember standing on the lawn of our apartment building and saying, ‘Oh my, everything is going to burn,’ ” Butler recalled.

Roughly 30 years later, Butler was approached to research and write the book that would become “Wildfire Loose.” Starting with local postmasters, she asked around for suggestions on who to speak with.

She interviewed firefighters who leapt from blaze to blaze, all the while wondering if their own homes were still standing. She also spoke with women who were forced to flee into the ocean with their children as the inferno burned their homes as well as women who worked at the “canteens” that sprung up near fire zones to feed the hordes of volunteers trying to stop the spreading flames.

For many, it was likely the first time they had told their personal stories of the fires beyond their circle of family and friends.

“I was amazed,” Butler said. “I remember one woman who literally wept telling me her family’s experiences. She just cried and it was 30 years after it happened.”

Butler also gathered reports from state agencies and towns and interviewed key state officials involved in coordinating the massive firefighting efforts.

More than three dozen of those interview recordings – most dating to 1977 – are now housed at the University of Maine’s Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department in Orono. She also donated many of her notes and research papers to the Maine Historical Society, where she has served as curator of museum collections. Butler also formerly served as town historian for Kennebunk and is a founding member of the Society of Maine Archivists.

Now 84, Butler said she is pleased “Wildfire Loose” was reprinted in 2014 by Down East Books and hopes future generations will continue to use it to learn about Maine’s most destructive forest fire season.

]]> 0 Butler wrote the book "Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned" that provides the definitive history of the 1947 forest fires. She recorded many of her interviews, which are now available as oral histories at the University of Maine's Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department in Orono.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 21:56:11 +0000
When Maine burned: How the monster Fire of ’47 tested the state’s resilience and altered its landscape Sun, 22 Oct 2017 01:00:00 +0000 The walls of flames roared like tornadoes or locomotives across Maine’s wooded hillsides, devastating communities with a ferocity that didn’t distinguish between waterfront mansions or humble farmsteads.

The only difference was the size of the rubble and ash piles left behind when the fires of October 1947 finally ended.

In tiny Newfield near the Maine-New Hampshire border, 80 percent of the town’s land area burned, along with 40 houses, the town hall, two schools and the post office.

Kennebunkport’s Goose Rocks Beach community was reduced to a forest of chimney stacks.

While half of Acadia National Park burned, downtown Bar Harbor was only spared by a last-minute shift in winds and the heroic efforts of hundreds of firefighters.

The forest fires that swept across Maine 70 years ago this month were like nothing its residents had seen before, or thankfully since.

Newsreel courtesy of Northeast Historic Film

Hampered by antiquated equipment and little to no communication lines between teams, tens of thousands of men fought against wind-driven infernos so hot that church steeple bells melted while trees and houses exploded rather than burned. Women made untold amounts of sandwiches, chowders and coffee for roving bands of volunteer firefighters, even as they prepared to flee with their children should the flames arrive on their street.

By the time rains finally fell on Oct. 29 – weeks after flames began popping up across the drought-stricken state – the fires had burned more than 200,000 acres, destroyed nearly 900 year-round homes, 400 seasonal houses and left an estimated 2,500 people homeless.

That puts the 1947 fires on the same geographic scale as those that have ravaged northern California this fall, although the fires on the West Coast have claimed far more lives than the historic Maine fires.

Nine entire communities were “practically wiped out,” a Maine forestry official wrote a year later.

Newfield immediately after the fire. Press Herald file photo

Sixteen people lost their lives – a shockingly low number given the scale of the devastation and the thousands of untrained volunteers battling fast-moving fires with shovels and hand-pump water cannisters.

“It was one of those things: you don’t think about it, you just do it,” said Richard Neal, who as a 16-year-old Sanford resident joined the hordes of men attempting to slow the fires’ spread in York County.

The fires of 1947 are more than just a historical footnote, however. They forced major changes to how Mainers prepared for and responded to forest fires and inspired the creation of a cross-border firefighting compact that continues today.

The destruction also permanently changed two entire regions: Oxford and York counties and Mount Desert Island.

Seventy years later, the physical scars of the 1947 fire have been erased or lie hidden beneath layers of younger topsoil. Yet subtle evidence of the conflagration can be found throughout York County, where some villages that date back to the 1700s have a distinctly post-World War II feel.

“If you go up to Brownfield or Waterboro, there are not a lot of old houses,” said Steve Spofford, town historian for Kennebunk. “Those are two towns that had to build again basically from scratch.”


After a wet winter and spring, the rains stopped falling over much of Maine around mid-July. They wouldn’t return until November.

“Continued days of warm, drying, gentle winds from the southwest and northwest quarters began to have a marked effect upon the soil moisture, wells, lakes, streams, ponds and vegetation,” Austin Wilkins, Maine’s deputy forest commissioner, wrote the following year. “By the first of October, with no break in the drought, several danger signs became very real and threatening.”

Reports of small fires sparked by cigarettes, road crews and unknown circumstances began pouring into state fire warden offices. Concerned about the growing fire threat, the state reopened fire towers during the second week of October and, on Oct. 17, Gov. Horace Hildreth closed most woods to hunting.

By Oct. 20, there were 50 small fires burning around the state. But things exploded a day later when strong winds fanned the flames beyond the fire lines, beginning what Wilkins dubbed “the race of terror” that would continue unabated for nearly a week.

Thousands of acres had already burned, but on Oct. 20-21 the danger of the forest fires became very real for many residents of southern Maine.

In North Kennebunkport, a days-old fire rekindled and grew into a rolling inferno. Flames leapt across Route 1 in the treetops – the moment captured by Associated Press photographer Ted Dyer – and churned toward Kennebunkport’s coastal villages as firefighters watched helplessly from below.

In this, possibly the most famous photo of the 1947 fires, a fire that had been underground at North Kennebunkport for almost a week broke out and began to move. Late in the day, fanned by high winds, the fire leaped across Route 1 in an arc of flames that dwarfed firefighters who stood helplessly by. Associated Press/Ted Dyer courtesy of the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk

In her 1979 book, “Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned,” author Joyce Butler captured the terror of women and children caught in Kennebunkport’s Goose Rocks Beach community as the wind-driven flames suddenly converged on the area.

The fire “roared into the beach settlement, a maelstrom of wind, smoke and flames,” forcing the group of women and children onto the beach and into the water, Butler wrote. Terrified wildlife also flocked to the beach, further unsettling the women, children and pets.

“They wrapped themselves in blankets, first a dry one, then a wet one, and waited, praying, trying to keep their spirits up, reassuring the children, worrying about their men who were off trying to save cottages,” said Butler, who interviewed dozens of fire survivors for her landmark book.

“When the women came out from under their blankets to see what was happening, they held wet pillowcases over their noses and mouths so they could breathe,” Butler wrote in “Wildfire Loose,” which has been re-released in paperback. “They could see that trees were burning from the top, not the bottom, flames in the green pines and the copper-colored leaves of the oaks. They heard the breaking of branches, and now and again an explosion as fuel oil tanks caught fire. Branches and burning shingles were dropping on the beach, carried there by the wind, which was now a gale.”

The majority of Goose Rocks Beach’s oceanfront houses burned before the flames headed up the coast toward Cape Porpoise and into Biddeford. Weeks later, the Kennebunk Star would publish a list – by name – of 182 houses that were destroyed in Kennebunkport, including at least 33 in Cape Porpoise.

Sheila Meeks, now 82, remembers seeing the devastation after the fires were gone.

“It was an absolute mess, especially as you headed over toward Goose Rocks,” Meeks recalled recently. The summer home Meeks’ family rented in Cape Porpoise was among more than a dozen houses that burned on Crow Hill – a hill now dominated, perhaps fittingly, by a large water tower.

“It took a good, long time before things got built up enough and you didn’t see any reminders” of the fire, said Meeks, who now lives in Kennebunk and is an archivist with the Kennebunk Historical Society. “And there are some areas that never did get built up again.”


Tuesday Oct. 21 was bad. But the 23rd would become known as “Red Thursday” because of the devastation wrought.

Gale-force winds (some gusting toward hurricane strength at sea) fanned fires in York, Oxford and Hancock counties into uncontrollable conflagrations that changed directions in an instant. Families already on alert had just enough time to grab their prepacked bags and a few sentimental or valuable items before fleeing down flame- and smoke-choked roads.

An unknown house on fire. Observers of the various fires noted that house often seemed to just explode. Courtesy of the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine

The night sky in Lyman was so bright that Sandra Caron remembers helping put her younger siblings to bed by the glare of the forest fires over the horizon.

Caron’s father, a potato farmer, had been off fighting fires for about a week, returning every few days to shower and catch a little sleep. Her mother made doughnuts for the Red Cross while she, the eldest child at age 10, was responsible for dousing any embers that drifted into the yard. But when the evacuation call finally came, Caron’s mother packed the bags, finished her last batch of doughnuts and loaded the kids into the car.

“We went down the dirt road with fire on both sides,” Caron recalled recently. “The smoke was very heavy and my mother would stop every once in a while to make sure she was still on the road.”

They stayed with a relative in Sanford for about a week but were relieved to learn their farmhouse survived thanks to a neighbor who kept wetting it down with buckets and a hose. Another neighbor’s house burned, as did numerous others in Lyman.

Some farmers didn’t even have time to release their animals from the barns. Others who did lost their livestock anyway.

In Brownfield, 75 percent of the taxable property burned.

Esther Boynton, in one of nearly two dozen interviews recorded by Butler, recalled the agonizing decision about what to take and what to leave behind when it was clear her family’s Brownfield house was “doomed.” Speaking 30 years later, Boynton regretted taking so many “good things” – i.e., valuables – and leaving behind the “ordinary things” you need for everyday life.

“I went out and I didn’t even close the doors behind,” Boynton said in a pained voice. “It didn’t seem to make any difference. It just, it was. That’s all. . . . The houses didn’t burn, they exploded. The heat was so terrible that they exploded.”

South Waterboro, Shapleigh, Lyman, parts of Alfred would suffer a similar fate on Oct. 23.


All along the shifting fire lines, thousands of men from surrounding towns as well as college and high school students fought the blaze or helped others escape.

Bates student volunteers who helped to fight the ’47 fires. Photo courtesy of Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library at Bates College

Richard Neal, the 16-year-old from Sanford, remembers deciding with two of his classmates to skip school and hitchhike to Waterboro to fight fires. He doesn’t even recall asking his mother’s permission.

The teens were given so-called “Indian pumps” – metal cannisters of water with backpack straps and a single hand pump – and were spread out along the fire line. They slept in barns, ate donated food and headed wherever they were directed.

At one point, Neal and his classmates encountered a state police trooper on Route 202 in Waterboro as the flames closed in. The trooper was about to lead them to a mill pond that would (hopefully) shield the group from the intense heat. But then the officer stopped an approaching driver and told her to take the boys and go, quickly.

“As we drove down (Route 202), all of the houses on the right side of the road were on fire and the flames were leaping across the road,” Neal, now 86, recounted recently. “The lawns and the houses on the left side of the road were catching on fire. And my friend said, ‘Lady, just follow the taillights of that logging truck.’ ”

Firefighters from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as well as equipment, arrived in Maine. The military still had multiple facilities in Maine just two years after the end of World War II, so thousands of service members joined the firefighting, provided medical care, established communications lines or protected burnt-over areas against looters.

In a Nov. 14 letter to the Navy’s commander in Boston, Hollis selectmen expressed “their sincerest appreciation” for the men of the cruiser USS Little Rock for their “great help in diverting the fire around small villages.”

“In fact, without this cooperation and equipment, working in conjunction with the fire departments of surrounding cities and towns, it is doubtful if some of them would have been saved,” reads the letter.

Even so, the fires scorched more land in York County than in all other Maine counties combined – roughly 130,000 acres out of the 205,000 statewide that year.


The county with the largest financial loss – $5.8 million back then, or the equivalent of in 2017 dollars – was Hancock County, largely because of the destruction around Bar Harbor.

The fires that burned more than 10,000 acres in Acadia National Park roared down the slopes of Cadillac Mountain and surrounding peaks into Bar Harbor on Oct. 23. Dozens of mansions burned along “Millionaire’s Row” – today’s Route 3 between Bar Harbor and Hull’s Cove – along with Jackson Lab and many other homes or businesses on the outskirts of town.

Publisher Joseph Pulitzer, right, and his pilot, unidentified, view the remains of the estate of Mrs. William S. Moore, his sister inBar Harbor on Oct. 24, the day after the home “Woodlands” was burned to the ground. Associated Press

Thousands of residents were trapped on Bar Harbor’s downtown pier awaiting a water rescue before bulldozers were able to clear a last-minute path through the still-burning debris on Route 3. The flames crept to the very edge of the downtown business district, destroying three large hotels.

Unlike many rural towns in southern and western Maine, Bar Harbor would be rebuilt and would rebound. In fact, the 1947 fires marked “the end of an era” in Bar Harbor, Butler said in an interview, as the town shifted further away from a playground for mansion-owning wealthy families to the tourist town that it is today.


It would be six more days – and thousands more acres burned – before rain finally fell on Oct. 29. The fires on Mount Desert Island wouldn’t be declared entirely under control until mid-November.

Writing his official summary for the 1947-48 Biennial Report of the Commissioner, deputy forest commissioner Austin Wilkins described losses of buildings, lumber and standing forests as “the greatest this state has suffered since records have been kept.”

Putting the 205,678 acres of scorched earth in more understandable terms, Wilkins compared the burned area to “a strip 286 miles long and 1 1/8 miles wide, extending from Fort Kent to Kittery.”

Lessons soon emerged from the conflagration, however.

Towns with understaffed fire departments or antiquated equipment sought and often received funding to expand and upgrade. Other municipalities without volunteer fire departments, meanwhile, got busy forming them.

Fire fighting equipment in 1947: A pile of shovels and brooms for firefighters at the American Red Cross headquarters on State St. in Portland. Courtesy of the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine

During the latter stages of the fires, Gov. Horace Hildreth had declared a state of emergency and consolidated all oversight of fire control in Augusta. The Maine Forest Service retained that oversight after the ’47 fires, taking a more active role in coordinating efforts to fight forest fires in towns and helping bear more of the costs.

“Fire prevention” also became a major component of state and local firefighting programs. And many of the state laws regarding permits for open burning or brush burning were put in place in the decade after the massive forest fires.


The communities ravaged by wildfires would inevitably rebuild, although some would fare better than others.

In just two hours, Newfield lost more than 40 houses, schools, a post office, at least one church and a mill.

“Many people lost all that they had worked their entire lives to build,” reads a historical account on the town of Newfield’s website. “Some moved on to begin again elsewhere, others rebuilt. But Newfield would never be the same.”

Other communities were transformed by the destruction.

Today, Kennebunkport’s Goose Rocks Beach is lined with more modern waterfront houses, some commanding seven-figure prices. In Bar Harbor, hotels replaced many of the mansions along “Millionaire’s Row,” hastening the resort town’s transition from the exclusive playground of families like the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts to a more egalitarian tourist destination.

The following spring, areas blackened by fire turned green as the forests began to regrow, albeit oftentimes with a different mix of hardwood trees than the firs that burned. And even today, it’s possible to distinguish between areas that burned from those that somehow escaped the erratic flames.

Caron, the Lyman resident who fled with her mother down smoke-choked roads, still resides on part of the farm her father owned in 1947.

“I live among the pine trees that survived,” Caron said. “I do have some very large pine trees.”

]]> 0 Harbor after fire passed through. (Press Herald-Evening Express photo) Maine October 1947 fireSun, 22 Oct 2017 08:15:44 +0000
Fire had profound impact on Bar Harbor and Acadia Sun, 22 Oct 2017 01:00:00 +0000 In Bar Harbor, the fires of 1947 burned an estimated 55 percent of the town’s acreage and destroyed more than 200 houses, including many summer “cottages” owned by some of the nation’s wealthiest families.

Yet in many ways, the destruction helped steer Bar Harbor toward the tourist destination that it is today, and it continues to affect the views of visitors to Acadia National Park.

“The year-round residents rebuilt, but few of the summer residents rebuilt their summer cottages or even came back,” Joyce Butler wrote in her book, “Wildfire Loose,” chronicling the 1947 fires and their aftermath. “Millionaires Row along Frenchman Bay is now lined with motels . . . (and) Bar Harbor’s economy, once tied to its cottage owners, now depends on its tourists.”

In total, more than 18,000 acres of Mount Desert Island burned during the forest fires that raged across the state 70 years ago this week.

Roughly 10,000 of those acres were within Acadia National Park, as fires swept across tinder-dry forests and over the tops of Cadillac Mountain, Dorr Mountain and other peaks.

Some of the most dramatic scenes of the 1947 fires, however, played out in the town of Bar Harbor.

Firefighters had been doggedly trying to extinguish small fires for days when, on Tuesday, Oct. 21, high winds took over. By the evening of the 23rd, Bar Harbor residents who hadn’t already fled were evacuated, first to a town athletic field and then toward the town pier at the foot of Main Street.

A crowd of several thousand gathered on the pier in the darkness, trapped between the advancing lines of fire and the angry waters of Frenchman Bay.

With all roads off the island blocked by flames, emergency crews had requested assistance from the Navy, the Coast Guard and eventually from local fishermen to help with a potential water evacuation. But the same gale-force winds that were fanning the flames were whipping up the waves on Frenchman Bay.

The anxious crowd watched flames light up the night sky as the large hotels and homes just on the outskirts of town burned.

“They came and announced we couldn’t stay there, we had to get off the island,” Jane Cormier Obermeyer would tell Butler in a 1980 interview that, like most others she conducted, is preserved in the University of Maine’s special collections. “So, the seas were just unbelievably rough because the wind was wild. And we had two choices: We could go by lobster boats across Frenchman’s Bay or we cold take a chance on the Army trucks going out through the fire zone.”

Obermeyer, her mother and sister would join the vast majority of people who elected to drive out after bulldozers cleared a path on Route 3 through the still-smoldering landscape. Tragically, Obermeyer’s teenaged sister, Helen, would be killed and her mother injured when their Army truck was struck from behind during the evacuation and tipped over. She was one of 16 people who lost their lives during the 1947 fires.

Meanwhile, firefighting crews from throughout Mount Desert Island as well as Ellsworth, Camden, Bucksport, Bangor and other towns had positioned themselves in key locations, hoping to block the fires from destroying the downtown business district. Unlike in the woods of Acadia and in smaller villages, firefighters in Bar Harbor had the benefit of hydrants for their hoses.

Shifting winds played a major part in sparing downtown Bar Harbor. But author Richard Walden Hale Jr., who recounted the scene just two years later in his book “The Story of Bar Harbor,” said much of the credit also goes to the firefighters.

“(Thanks) to the inspiration of Chief Payson of Camden, who sent men forward under wetted-down blankets, it was possible to maintain streams of water at the very point of the fire,” Hale wrote in 1949. “Naturally, it was impossible to save the three great hotels – the de Gregoire at West Street and Eden, the Belmont at Mount Desert and Kebo, and the Malvern on Kebo Street. Once anything caught, it went. But what was wetted down could be saved and by intense effort . . . the fire was held out of town.”

Not only had Bar Harbor’s three largest hotels burned down, but so had 170 year-round homes and 67 summer “cottages” owned by some of the nation’s wealthiest families.

Today, the area of Route 3 just outside of the downtown district, formerly known as “Millionaire’s Row” for its collection of summertime mansions, is occupied by hotels catering to a broader socioeconomic range of visitors.

The fire also changed what visitors see in Acadia National Park, although those views continue to change 70 years later.

William Patterson, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has been studying the relationships of forests, fires and humans on Mount Desert Island for more than 30 years.

“Fire, at least during the time since Europeans settled the island in the 1760s, has been a part of the island landscape,” Patterson said.

At the time of the 1947 fire, much of the island was covered with spruce and fir trees, both types of evergreens. After the fires, however, the first species to regenerate in many areas were birch, aspen and other hardwood trees that lose their leaves in the fall.

As a result, Acadia National Park puts on a more spectacular autumnal color display today – displays that draw hordes of leaf peepers annually – than it did before the 1947 fires.

But Patterson said that appears to be changing, once again.

While the 1947 fires killed many spruce and fir trees, seeds of those trees are adapted to survive fire. And over the past 70 years, Patterson said, the evergreens appear to be gradually edging out their deciduous cousins in many areas.

“They are fairly quickly going from aspen and birch to spruce and fir – more quickly than I would have expected,” said Patterson. “With that, the forests will be greener year-round and we won’t have some of the dramatic fall colors.”

]]> 0 Joseph Pulitzer, right, with his pilot, unidentified, views the remains of the estate of Mrs. William S. Moore, his sister, at Bar Harbor, Maine, Oct. 24, 1947 after the home “Woodlands” was leveled in the disastrous fire on October 23. (AP Photo/Abe Fox) Maine October 1947 fireSat, 21 Oct 2017 21:56:03 +0000
FAA urges ban on laptops in luggage Sat, 21 Oct 2017 23:49:15 +0000 WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is urging the world airline community to ban large, personal electronic devices like laptops from checked luggage because of the potential for a catastrophic fire.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a paper filed recently with a U.N. agency that its tests show that when a laptop’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery overheats in close proximity to an aerosol spray can, it can cause an explosion capable of disabling an airliner’s fire suppression system. The fire could then rage unchecked, leading to “the loss of the aircraft,” the paper said.

The U.N. agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, sets global aviation safety standards, although member countries must still ratify them. The proposed ban is on the agenda of a meeting of ICAO’s panel on dangerous goods being held in Montreal.

The FAA has conducted 10 tests involving a fully charged laptop packed in a suitcase. A heater was placed against the laptop’s battery to force it into “thermal runaway,” a condition in which the battery’s temperature continually rises.

In one test, an 8-ounce aerosol can of dry shampoo – which is permitted in checked baggage – was strapped to the laptop. There was a fire almost immediately and it grew rapidly. The aerosol can exploded within 40 seconds. The test showed that because of the rapid progression of the fire, Halon gas fire suppressant systems used in airline cargo compartments would be unable to put out the fire before there was an explosion, the FAA said. The explosion might not be strong enough to structurally damage the plane, but it could damage the cargo compartment and allow the Halon to escape, the agency said. Then there would be nothing to prevent the fire from spreading.

Other tests of laptop batteries packed with potentially dangerous consumer goods that are permitted in checked baggage like nail polish remover, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol also resulted in large fires, although no explosions.

As a result, the paper recommends that passengers shouldn’t be allowed to pack large electronic devices in baggage unless they have specific approval from the airline.

Rechargeable lithium batteries are used in consumer products ranging from cellphones and laptops to electric cars. Manufacturers like them because they pack more energy into smaller packages.

]]> 0 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:19:20 +0000
‘Stand Down’ gives Maine veterans a respite from homelessness Sat, 21 Oct 2017 23:48:54 +0000 AUGUSTA — Robert Lindie looked out nervously at the crowd of dozens of homeless veterans gathered in the theater at the VA Maine Healthcare System at Togus, uncomfortable speaking publicly but doing so nonetheless, to give his message to the men and women who now sat where he had sat just three years ago.

“I was sitting four rows back,” the Augusta man, who walks with a cane, said as the 20th annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down got underway Saturday morning. “I was homeless. I had no place to go, and no way to get there. I was kind of at the end of my rope.”

Knowing Lindie was a veteran, a friend had asked him whether he wanted to go to Togus. He said “not really” but relented, and he went. He later was admitted to the veterans’ hospital and, after three or four weeks there during which he said he “just needed to get my running gear in shape,” he moved into the Bread of Life Ministries’ Veterans Shelter in Augusta. Then Togus staff members helped him find an apartment, also in Augusta, where he has lived since. Sober for three years, he volunteers at Togus, including Saturday at the Homeless Veteran Stand Down, a daylong event in which military veterans from across the state can get free services as well as free clothing and other items.

“I like volunteering because that’s what makes the world go round,” he told his fellow veterans. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help, nothing at all. You’re in a good place. You’ve got to take that first step. And you know what, folks? This is a good first step.”

Veterans were offered free services or goods at 32 stations set up in multiple buildings of the Togus campus, including a wide array of health care services; transportation to and from Togus from designated pickup locations; child care; food and drinks; haircuts; boots and clothing; personal care items; women’s services; information on housing, employment, training and veteran benefits; legal services; assistance with taxes; flu shots; and food stamp and MaineCare applications. All of it was free.

Anthony Ward, who served in the Army in the early 1980s until a blasting cap blew his hand apart as he was setting up targets in the Mojave Desert, got a pair of reading glasses, underwent oral cancer screening, and inquired about getting dentures at the Stand Down on Saturday morning. He’s living in transitional housing with Veterans Inc. in Lewiston, after having lived at a Tedford shelter in Brunswick. Now he is looking for an apartment.

Ward said it was the first time he’d attended the Stand Down, which he said was “really cool.”

Tom Baker, who recently moved from Florida to Maine and who served in the Army from 1970 to 1973, said he’s a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and he came to Maine because he thought he could stay off drugs better in Maine.

Saturday he underwent oral cancer screening, was looking to set up a dental appointment, and visited a podiatrist to have his feet checked out.

“Stand down” is a military term that refers to active-duty personnel being taken off a battlefield to a safe place. Saturday’s annual event, according to organizers, is meant to allow homeless veterans to “stand down” from homelessness for a day, and to help them connect with services and supports to help end their homelessness.

Susie Whittington, a social worker who works with homeless veterans at Togus, applauded homeless veterans for coming and urged them, even though they didn’t want to ask for help, to let the roughly 200 volunteers and Togus staff at the event help them. She said she doesn’t want to see the homeless veterans back again next year, still homeless.

Dan Dunker, associate director of the VA at Togus, said 25 to 30 organizations had volunteers at the event. He told the homeless veterans, before they dispersed around the facility to get services, the goal was not just to give them a bit of information or an application for a program that might help them but, rather, to help them with their problems on the spot, or get them into programs that can help them.

“We’re going to take care of your business today. We’re not going to give you an application and send you on your way,” he said.

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

Twitter: kedwardskj

]]> 0 Lindie of Augusta hugs social worker Susie Whittington after speaking Saturday at the 20th annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down at the VA at Togus.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:10:25 +0000
Soldier killed in Niger laid to rest Sat, 21 Oct 2017 23:45:03 +0000 COOPER CITY, Fla. — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

Some of the 1,200 mourners exiting the church after Saturday’s service said the portrait of Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was surrounded on stage by photographs his slain comrades. The four died Oct. 4 in Niger when they were attacked by militants tied to the Islamic State. Johnson’s family asked reporters to remain outside for the service.

“We have to remember that one thing: that it wasn’t just one soldier who lost his life,” said Berchel Davis, a retired police officer who has six children in the military. He said the preacher and Rep. Frederica Wilson both made that a part of their talks. “That was a good gesture on everyone’s part.”

He and others said the fight between Trump and Wilson was never mentioned during the service.

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia, were killed along with La David Johnson in Niger.

Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia, had held the arm of an Army officer as she led her two young children and her family, dressed in white, into the Christ the Rock Community Church in suburban Fort Lauderdale. The modern hymn “I’m Yours” could be heard coming from inside.

Johnson’s sister, Angela Ghent, said after the service that “it don’t feel real” that her brother was killed.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, I haven’t had time to grieve,” said Ghent, who last spoke to her brother a few weeks before he died. She said she was glad mourners got to hear about her brother’s love for bikes and cars, not just his military service.

The fight between Trump and Wilson had taken the focus off Johnson, whose widow is due to have a daughter in January. The couple, who were high school sweethearts, already had a 6-year-old daughter, Ah’Leeysa, and 2-year-old son, La David Jr. An online fundraiser has raised more than $600,000 to pay for the children’s education.

Johnson’s mother died when he was 5; he was raised by his aunt. His family enrolled him in 5000 Role Models, a project Wilson began in 1993 when she was an educator. The program pairs African-American boys with mentors who prepare them for college, vocational school or the military.

“We teach them to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. Sgt. Johnson typified all of those characteristics,” said mourner Carlton Crawl, a public school consultant who is one of the program’s mentors.

In 2013, a year before he enlisted, Johnson was featured in a local television newscast for his ability to do bicycle tricks, earning the nickname “Wheelie King.” He said he learned his tricks by going slow.

“Once you feel comfortable, you could just ride all day,” he told the interviewer.

The war of words between the president and Wilson began Tuesday when the Miami-area Democrat said Trump told Myeshia Johnson in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for” and didn’t appear to know his name, a version later backed up by Johnson’s aunt. Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. She was principal of a school Johnson’s father attended.

]]> 0 honor guard carries the coffin of Army Sgt. La David Johnson at a graveside service in Hollywood, Fla., on Saturday. Johnson, above, was among four Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger on Oct. 4.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:52:11 +0000
Trump jabs back at ‘wacky’ Florida congresswoman Sat, 21 Oct 2017 23:27:30 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump on Saturday jabbed back at the Democratic lawmaker who slammed him for his words of condolence to a military widow, calling Rep. Frederica Wilson “wacky” and contending she is “killing” her party.

Trump’s broadside came a day after the White House defended chief of staff John Kelly after he mischaracterized Wilson’s remarks and called her an “empty barrel” making noise. A Trump spokeswoman said it was “inappropriate” to question Kelly in light of his stature as a retired four-star general.

The fight between Trump and the Miami-area Democrat began Tuesday when she said Trump told the pregnant widow of a service member killed in the African nation of Niger that her 25-year-old husband “knew what he signed up for.” Wilson was riding with the family of Sgt. La David Johnson to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone.

The administration has tried to insist that it’s long past time to end the political squabbling over Trump’s compassion for America’s war dead.

But Trump added to the volley of insults with his tweet Saturday morning: “I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!” That came after she had added a new element by suggesting a racial context.

His tweet came hours before mourners were to attend Johnson’s funeral in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Kelly asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building,” rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.

Wilson, in an interview Friday with The New York Times, brought race into the dispute.

“The White House itself is full of white supremacists,” said Wilson, who is black, as is the Florida family Trump had called in a condolence effort this week that led to the back-and-forth name-calling.

Trump, in an interview with Fox Business Network, then called Wilson’s criticism of Kelly “sickening.” He also said he had a “very nice call,” with the late sergeant’s family.

The spat started when Wilson told reporters that Trump had insulted the family of Johnson, who was killed two weeks ago in Niger. She was fabricating that, Trump said. The soldier’s widow and aunt said no, it was the president who was fibbing.

Then Kelly strode out in the White House briefing room on Thursday, backing up the president and suggesting Wilson was just grandstanding – as he said she had at the FBI dedication in 2015.

After news accounts took issue with part of that last accusation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chastised reporters for questioning the account of a decorated general.

]]> 0 U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida talks to reporters Wednesday in Miami Gardens, Fla.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:27:30 +0000
Colby College students, staff collect household waste in Waterville Sat, 21 Oct 2017 23:12:21 +0000 WATERVILLE — The so-called “Colby Bubble” popped years ago.

On Saturday, students and Colby College faculty volunteers made sure it stayed popped with a massive cleanup of Waterville’s gritty South End neighborhood.

Six 30-yard trash containers were placed strategically around the neighborhood, where an estimated 100-plus city and college volunteers filled them with old household and yard goods to be hauled away to the Waste Management Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock for processing.

They arrived in pickup trucks, cars and even a double-seater all-terrain vehicle, all to be loaded with refuse that neighborhood residents had set on the sidewalk to be hauled away.

“We’re really excited that Colby is this involved,” Waterville City Councilor Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, said from the command post Saturday outside the South End Teen Center on Water Street.

“If this is the thing to get to the thing – if dumpsters is what you need to help clean up the neighborhood to get to the thing, which is a better quality of life in the neighborhood that inspires people to continue to maintain that – then we can do that. Let’s do this.”

Dupont, a member of the South End Neighborhood Association, added that improving the properties in the area will in turn attract new homebuyers and renters for an infusion of capital.

She said all “the stuff” being collected Saturday is coming from people’s homes, apartment buildings and the nearby embankment of the Kennebec River. She said that unless there are volunteer days like Saturday’s event, people “in survival mode” who lack the means to get rid of unwanted things such as old TVs, videocassette recorders, tires and furniture, will resort to tossing them where they don’t belong.

Zhuofan Zhang, a Colby computer science student from Bejing was sporting a blue T-shirt that read “Popping The Bubble,” and he knew what it meant.

“I think it means popping the bubble surrounding Colby College,” he said. “It means that we can interact with downtown Waterville, instead of staying up on the hill.”

Carly Swartz, a Colby sophomore from North Reading, Massachusetts, who was helping with the cleanup Saturday with fellow members of the Colby softball team, said it is important to volunteer in Waterville.

“I think it’s really important to help the residents of the town we go to college in,” she said. “It puts perspective where we’re going to school and the people we’re always around and helping the community.”

Her teammate and fellow student Kate Guerin, a first-year student from Bowdoinham, said they are familiar with the expression “popping the bubble” and that is what they are trying to change, to show that the college and the students really care.

Mason Brady, a Colby sophomore from Menlo Park, California, majoring in computer science, said he and his friends were busy Saturday unloading pickup trucks into the waiting dumpsters.

“This is great. I love coming out into the community and making an impact,” he said. “It’s not often that we get to do stuff like this. It’s really fun.”

Dupont said volunteer Paula Raymond, of the neighborhood association’s Quality of Life Committee, who works for the adult education program in Waterville, walked around the neighborhood and talked to people all summer, telling them to get ready for Saturday’s cleanup and handed out fliers.

“This is my neighborhood – born and raised. This is my haunt, this is my neighborhood, and we want to clean it up,” Raymond said.

The Central Maine Apartment Owners Association also participated in the cleanup Saturday.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

Twitter: Doug_Harlow

]]> 0 College staff members Laura Jones-Pettit, left, and Katie Sawyer, and Megan Marsh, back, organize a large metal bin of old household and yard goods collected Saturday for a cleanup designed to help students and faculty engage with the city of Waterville.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:57:29 +0000
Female senators share stories about sexual harassment Sat, 21 Oct 2017 23:05:39 +0000 In the weeks since an investigative report exposed decades of sexual harassment and assault claims against Harvey Weinstein, a steady stream of women in Hollywood circles – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Mira Sorvino and Lupita Nyong’o – have come forth to accuse the film mogul of grossly inappropriate behavior.

The allegations have also prompted scores of people to share their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault on social media, using the now-viral hashtag #MeToo. The idea, in part, behind the sheer volume of posts was to show that such behavior is not just a problem isolated in high-powered celebrity circles. It can and does happen anywhere, to anyone.

Even to those in Congress.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” said it asked every female U.S. senator for personal stories of harassment they were comfortable sharing. At least four responded. One, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, later tweeted, “Pretty much every woman that I know, myself included, has a #MeToo story.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., shared an account from when she was starting out as North Dakota’s attorney general, more than 20 years ago. She had then wanted to change the dynamic of domestic violence, and spoke once at an event with a retired officer about what happens when there is violence in the home.

“After I got done, this very much older law enforcement official came up to me,” Heitkamp told “Meet the Press.”

“And he pretty much put his finger in my face, and he said, ‘Listen here. Men will always beat their wives and you can’t stop ’em.’ ”

Celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Rosario Dawson first helped to amplify the hashtag last Sunday, as thousands of women shared that they were victims of harassment and assault. Some contributed wrenching accounts of romantic overtures by bosses, catcalls from strangers and sexual assault.

]]> 0 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:14:26 +0000
On cigarette tax hikes, tobacco lobby powerful foe Sat, 21 Oct 2017 22:57:07 +0000 For more than a decade, Kristin Page-Nei begged Montana lawmakers to raise cigarette prices. As a health advocate for the American Cancer Society, she watched year after year as other states increased their cigarette taxes and lowered their smoking rates. “What they’re doing is saving lives,” she kept saying.

Finally, this spring, she helped convince state senators to raise cigarette taxes for the first time in 12 years. Then came the tobacco lobbyists.

Bankrolled by the country’s two biggest cigarette companies, they swarmed the halls of the state capitol, wined and dined Republican leaders, launched a sophisticated call-in campaign and coached witnesses for hearings. The tobacco companies poured more than $200,000 into Montana, a state with barely a million residents.

It took them just one week to kill the bill – from the time it passed the state Senate to its last gasps in a state House committee. The tobacco lobby was so effective that, in the end, eight of the bill’s original co-sponsors voted against it.

“It was incredible. Just brutal,” Page-Nei said. “I’d never seen this amount of money being poured into a session in my 17 years here.”

Health experts agree that raising taxes is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use. The U.S. surgeon general, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all concluded that raising taxes helps large numbers of smokers to quit and have advocated loudly for it.

But many states – Missouri, Kentucky and Georgia among them – have not significantly increased their cigarette fees in decades, bowing to pressure from tobacco lobbyists and an ingrained antipathy among conservatives to raising taxes of any kind.

As a result, America’s smokers are increasingly concentrated in states where cigarettes are cheap. A pack of cigarettes will soon cost $13 in New York City, where a tax hike of $2.50 was recently passed. But in Kentucky – the state with the highest rate of smokers, at 25.9 percent, compared to the national rate of 15 percent – you can buy that same pack for $4.77 on average.

“People around here just don’t like the ‘tax’ word,” said Ellen Hahn, a tobacco control expert at the University of Kentucky who has struggled for years to raise Kentucky’s 60 cents per pack cigarette tax. “Between that and the grip of the tobacco industry on our legislature, it’s hard to convince anyone, especially politicians.”

The huge gap in prices is the result of a long-running war between tobacco companies and health advocates. It is also, experts say, one of the biggest reasons low-tax states now suffer from high rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a multitude of other tobacco-related diseases.

“It’s incredibly frustrating because unlike so many other problems in the country, this is one case where we know the solution,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Not only that. It’s a solution that’s widely popular, doesn’t cost the government anything, yet these states refuse to do it.”

In the 1980s, some states started aggressively raising cigarette taxes to combat smoking. Over the years, overwhelming research has proved it works. But there’s one wrinkle: The tax increase has to be large, or else it has little effect on smokers.

As a result, the battle has increasingly focused on not just whether states should increase taxes, but by how much.

Health advocates regularly fight for $1 to $2 increases, while cigarette companies push to limit them to hikes of 25 to 50 cents. That has led, at times, to bizarre conflicts.

Last year, when Missouri considered raising its cigarette tax for the first time in more than two decades, tobacco companies actually supported the increase, while health groups such as the American Cancer Society strongly opposed it.

The reason? The proposed increase was so low – either a gradual 23-cent hike or a 60-cent increase over four years – that researchers concluded smokers would pay it and keep smoking.

The Missouri fight was particularly important because the state has the lowest cigarette tax in the country. These days, Missouri smokers pay only 17 cents per pack, plus the nationwide federal tax of $1.01 cents.

Health advocates accused tobacco companies of backing the small bump to avoid larger hikes in the future.

Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, which spent $12.5 million for the cause, denied that motive, saying it promoted the tax because it didn’t hurt consumers and retailers and because the money would go to a good cause – early-childhood education. “We thought it was a reasonable, common-sense proposal,” R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard said.

]]> 0 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:38:49 +0000
Pair of hearings on pot-related issues to be held in Richmond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 22:33:44 +0000 Two public hearings are scheduled this week in Richmond on two marijuana-related issues that will appear on a special town meeting warrant in November.

One is a proposed change to the town’s land-use ordinance that regulates where marijuana-related businesses could be located in Richmond. The other is a ban on the expansion of a medical marijuana grow facility that’s close to one of the town’s schools.

The Planning Board is scheduled to hold its public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Town Office. The Board of Selectmen plans to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Marcia Buker School, at 28 High St.

When voters narrowly approved the statewide recreational marijuana referendum last November, they also opened the door to marijuana-related enterprises such as smoking lounges, retail shops and processing facilities. Because local ordinances made no provision for where those types of businesses would be allowed, many communities opted to impose temporary bans to give local planning boards time to draft proposals.

In Sagadahoc County, Richmond is among the majority of communities that voted in favor of recreational marijuana. The vote was 1,016 for it and 902 against.

At a special town meeting in January, Richmond residents approved a temporary ban on allowing marijuana-related enterprises in town.

Since that vote, a number of changes to the land-use ordinance have been proposed, including requiring anyone operating a pot-related enterprise such as a social club or retail shop to obtain an annual license.

In addition, any retail pot-related business or social club would be restricted to the highway commercial district by Interstate 295.

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

Twitter: JLowellKJ

]]> 0 proposed 20 percent tax on legal recreational marijuana would be high enough to raise revenue for enforcement, prevention and other matters, and low enough to keep people from going to the black market.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 23:09:41 +0000
Flag-bearing Maine veteran nears finish of million-step trek Sat, 21 Oct 2017 22:20:16 +0000 GLENBURN — A Maine military veteran is hoping for a big finish for his unusual way of honoring the nation’s fallen military personnel.

Jacob Marquis of Glenburn plans to complete his goal of “one step for each sacrifice” during the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.

Marquis said he’s aiming to complete more than 1 million steps. Based on his research, that equates to one step for every U.S. combat death since the Revolutionary War. He says he usually takes about 1,500 steps per mile, so his goal was to run close to 700 miles.

Marquis, who carries the Stars and Stripes when he runs, said it has taken four years to near the goal.

The conclusion will be Sunday around mile 24 of the Marine Corps Marathon, which takes runners along the Potomac River in Washington and Arlington, Virginia. Marquis said his wife, dad and sister will be at the finish line.

He served 10 years in the National Guard in Maine and Connecticut. He said he appreciates every honk, wave or thumbs-up that he gets while running.

]]> 0 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 18:25:24 +0000
Clinton police investigate stabbing, arrest juvenile Sat, 21 Oct 2017 22:11:13 +0000 CLINTON — Clinton police arrested a male juvenile Saturday after receiving a report of a stabbing at a home at 1363 Hinckley Road.

The arrest occurred after Maine State Police arrived with a search dog named Draco to hunt for the suspect, who is charged with felony aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, police Detective Robert McFetridge said.

The home is near Route 23, also known as Canaan Road, about a mile and a half from the Hinckley Bridge in Fairfield.

McFetridge said the victim’s wounds were minor, and that police were briefly holding a female juvenile for questioning. The identities of both juveniles are being withheld because of their age.

“We had a juvenile that had a bad spell. He attacked an adult male in there,” he said of the single-family mobile home.

“There was a weapon involved, but no serious injuries. We had to call state police for assistance and have a canine to track him.”

The person identified as the victim of the attack is a family member, McFetridge said.

“He did inflict injuries with a knife, but they turned out to be superficial,” McFetridge said. “EMS got here and looked at it.”

He said the juvenile female was with the alleged attacker and was not arrested, despite having been handcuffed briefly by police. Police expect no charges will be brought against the girl.

The boy was taken to the Clinton police station and charged as a juvenile.

A juvenile probation officer was called to meet them at the police station and was to decide where the suspect would go from there.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

Twitter: Doug_Harlow

]]> 0 State Police, with a tracking dog, and Clinton police confer Saturday afternoon on Hinckley Road in Clinton, where a stabbing was reported. A male juvenile was arrested later nearby in connection with the incident.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 18:28:15 +0000
Fertility industry enjoys growth spurt Sat, 21 Oct 2017 22:05:17 +0000 When Julie Schlomer got the news that she was finally pregnant at the age of 43, her thoughts turned to the other mothers. There were three of them in all, complete strangers, but they shared an extraordinary bond made possible by 21st-century medicine and marketing.

They were all carrying half-siblings.

Under a cost-saving program offered by Rockville, Maryland-based Shady Grove Fertility, the women split 21 eggs harvested from a single donor – blue-eyed, dark-haired, with a master’s degree in teaching. Each had the eggs fertilized with her partner’s sperm and transferred to her womb.

Schlomer gave birth to twins, a son and daughter, now 3. She hopes her children will one day connect with their genetic half-siblings.

“I would love to see pictures of the other kids, to talk to them,” Schlomer said.

The multibillion-dollar fertility industry is booming, and experimenting with business models that are changing the American family in new and unpredictable ways. Would-be parents seeking donor eggs and sperm can pick and choose from long checklists of physical and intellectual characteristics. Clinics now offer volume discounts, package deals and 100 percent guarantees for babymaking that are raising complicated ethical and legal questions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 percent of American women 15 to 55 – 7.3 million – have used some sort of fertility service; the use of assisted reproductive technologies has doubled in the past decade. In 2015, these procedures resulted in nearly 73,000 babies – 1.6 percent of all U.S. births. The rate is even higher in some countries, including Japan (5 percent) and Denmark (10 percent).

Most couples use their own eggs and sperm, turning to doctors to facilitate pregnancy through techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). But the use of donor gametes is on the rise. The donor-egg industry, in particular, has taken off in the past decade with the development of a safe and reliable egg-freezing process. The number of attempted pregnancies with donor eggs has soared from 1,800 in 1992 to almost 21,200 in 2015.

Yet in the United States, the industry remains largely self-regulated. Questions abound about the recruitment of donors; the ethics of screening and selecting embryos for physical characteristics; the ownership of the estimated millions of unused eggs, sperm samples and embryos in long-term storage; and the emerging ability to tinker with embryos via the gene-editing tool CRISPR.

Earlier this year, a group of donor-conceived adults documented numerous ethical lapses in the industry, including donors who lied to prospective parents about their health histories and other qualifications, and clinics that claimed to have limited donations from some individuals – while permitting those individuals to submit hundreds of samples. They called on the Food and Drug Administration to provide more oversight of the “cryobanks” that gather, store and sell the most precious commodities in the industry: sperm and eggs.

The agency said it is reviewing the matter, but cannot predict when it will have a response “due to the existence of other FDA priorities.”

In the meantime, the business of assisted reproduction remains a mostly unregulated frontier. Shady Grove Fertility, the nation’s largest clinic, offers refunds if couples don’t go home with a baby. New Hope Fertility in New York City held a lottery earlier this year that awarded 30 couples a $30,000 round of IVF. And the California IVF Fertility Center is pioneering what some refer to as the “Costco model” of babymaking, creating batches of embryos using donor eggs and sperm that can be shared among several different families.

That model has served to highlight a preference among many would-be parents for tall, thin, highly educated donors.

“It’s a little unsettling to be marketing characteristics as potentially positive in a future child,” said Rebecca Dresser, a bioethicist at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics under George W. Bush. “But it’s hard to think on what basis to prohibit that.”

]]> 0 Schlomer, 3, dances with her twin brother, Logan, above, at the Schlomer family's home in Lexington Park, Md. At right, Julie Schlomer and her husband, Ryan Schlomer, do an art project with the kids. Julie Schlomer used a shared egg donor and in vitro fertilization to have the twins.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 18:30:30 +0000
How Maine’s members of Congress voted Sat, 21 Oct 2017 21:57:00 +0000 The House was not in session last week. Along with roll call votes, the Senate passed a resolution (S. Res. 292), condemning the brutal and senseless attack at the country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1; and passed the Child Protection Improvements Act (H.R. 695), to establish a voluntary national criminal history background check system and criminal history review program for certain workers who have access to children, the elderly, or the disabled.


VATICAN AMBASSADOR: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Callista Gingrich to serve as ambassador to the Vatican. Gingrich, the wife of longtime House member Newt Gingrich, worked for nearly two decades as a House aide and clerk on the House Agriculture Committee. A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Gingrich “will continue the strong relationship between our nation and the Vatican, building upon shared values, goals, and global responsibilities.” The vote Monday was 70 yeas to 23 nays.

YEAS: Susan Collins, R-Maine, Angus King, I-Maine

DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The Senate confirmed the nomination of David Joel Trachtenberg to serve as principal deputy undersecretary of defense. Trachtenberg served as an official in various roles at the Defense Department and, more recently, as a private national security consultant. The vote Tuesday was 79 yeas to 17 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

MEDICARE RESERVE FUND: The Senate approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to maintain funding for Medicare and Medicaid. Hatch said the fund would promote “a stronger, more fiscally sound safety net” that improves the fiscal sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid. The vote Wednesday was 89 yeas to 8 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

MEDICAID SPENDING: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would have increased Medicaid spending by $1 trillion and increased taxes by a similar amount. Sanders said: “This amendment says no to the cutting of $1 trillion from Medicaid and forcing 15 million Americans off the health insurance they currently have, while at the same time providing a $1.9 trillion tax break to the top 1 percent.” An opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said that by maintaining an unsustainable status quo for Medicare spending, the amendment would keep the program “on a path toward bankrupting our states.” The vote Wednesday was 47 yeas to 51 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

MEDICARE AND TAXES: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would have increased taxes by $473 billion, with the funds to be used to avoid $473 billion in cuts to Medicare spending. Nelson said that by preserving Medicare, the amendment would avert a damaging loss of access to health care for senior citizens. An opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the tax increases would hurt the economy, while the proposed Medicare cuts would be merely a decline in the projected annual rate of spending increases and was needed to preserve Medicare. The vote Wednesday was 47 yeas to 51 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

TAX CUTS FOR FAMILIES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to lower taxes on families with children. Heller said the tax cuts “will help begin to address the financial insecurities facing American families and will help families confront the rising cost of raising children.” The vote Wednesday was unanimous with 98 yeas.

YEAS: Collins, King

DEDUCTING LOCAL TAXES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would reduce the ability of taxpayers to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal income tax. Capito said the deductions overwhelmingly benefited wealthy taxpayers, and reducing expensive deductions would provide relief for the working class. An amendment opponent, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said “more than half the taxpayers claiming the state and local deduction make less than $100,000,” and removing their deductions would mean double taxation on their income. The vote Thursday was 52 yeas to 47 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

SIMPLIFYING TAXES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to make the tax system simpler and fairer for all Americans. Flake said Congress needed to lower tax rates and broaden the tax base by eliminating spending through tax preferences and loopholes and deductions to make the tax code simpler and more efficient. The vote Thursday was unanimous with 98 yeas.

YEAS: Collins, King

PAYMENTS TO RURAL COUNTIES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to permanently authorize the payment in lieu of taxes program, by which rural Western counties with large amounts of federal land receive federal funds as compensation for the federal land being non-taxable. Udall said establishing permanent funding for the counties was needed to ensure that they can plan on using the federal payments to maintain roads, operate schools, and provide other vital services. An opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the budget bill already funded the payment in lieu of taxes program, making the amendment unnecessary. The vote Thursday was 58 yeas to 41 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

HOUSE BUDGET PLAN: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would make changes to the bill in order to authorize enforcement of the budget plan by the House. Enzi said the amendment’s technical changes “will help maintain fiscal discipline in the House” so it and the Senate can work on passing a budget bill. An opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said it would help Republicans “throw up to 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have, increase premiums for older workers, and make even more harmful cuts to Medicaid.” The vote Thursday was 52 yeas to 48 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

]]> 0 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 18:08:13 +0000
Fox knew of lawsuit when re-signing Bill O’Reilly Sat, 21 Oct 2017 21:51:31 +0000 NEW YORK — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O’Reilly when it renewed the popular personality’s contract in February.

The New York Times reported Saturday the company renewed the TV host’s contract after he reached a $32 million settlement with the analyst.

In a statement, 21st Century Fox defended its decision because it said he had settled the matter personally. It also said O’Reilly and the woman had agreed the financial terms would be kept confidential.

The company says O’Reilly’s new contract had added protections that allowed Fox to dismiss him if other allegations surfaced.

O’Reilly was ousted months later when it was revealed Fox had paid five women a total of $13 million to keep quiet about harassment allegations.

The news analyst’s allegations included repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to the woman, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke to The New York Times.

The settlement was by far the largest of a half dozen deals made by O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against the host, according to the newspaper.

It was reached in January. In February, 21st Century Fox granted O’Reilly’s a four-year extension on a $25 million-a-year contract. In April, it fired him.

O’Reilly has called his firing from Fox News Channel a “political hit job” and that his network’s parent company made a business decision to get rid of him. He also has said his conscience was clear in how he dealt with women. O’Reilly could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The most-watched figure in cable TV was dismissed by 21st Century Fox nine months after the company removed its founding CEO, Roger Ailes, following harassment charges. Ailes died at his home in Los Angeles last May.

The company said it has taken numerous steps to change its workplace environment.

“21st Century Fox has taken concerted action to transform Fox News, including installing new leaders, overhauling management and on-air talent, expanding training, and increasing the channels through which employees can report harassment or discrimination,” Fox said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

O’Reilly hosts a podcast, contributes to Glenn Beck’s radio program and continues to write books.

]]> 0 personality Bill O'Reilly, who's settled several harassment suits, says his conscience is clear in how he's dealt with women. (AP PhotoSat, 21 Oct 2017 17:58:07 +0000
Portland police won’t discuss probe into kidnap attempt Sat, 21 Oct 2017 21:37:29 +0000 Portland police on Saturday declined to discuss details of the attempted kidnapping of an infant at a Hannaford supermarket Friday, citing the ongoing investigation as the reason.

The incident happened shortly after 1 p.m. Friday at the Back Cove Hannaford, when the infant’s father alerted store staff that someone had taken his baby in a shopping cart.

Store officials locked all store exits and announced a “Code Adam” over the store’s loudspeakers, prompting staff to be stationed at doors to check for people trying to leave with a child. The infant was later found unharmed in another part of the store.

Police Lt. Robert Martin said in an email Saturday there were “no updates” on the case to report but that police may discuss it Monday. City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in a text message that “the investigation is ongoing and because of that we can’t say more at this time.”

Both Martin and Grondin were emailed specific questions which remained unanswered Saturday, including whether there are any leads on the suspect’s whereabouts, how many officers are working the case and if video of the suspect will be released.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, speaking after the incident Friday, declined to go into specifics, except to say “the child was certainly taken from the area where the baby’s father was to another location in the store.” He said the infant was unharmed and never left the store.

Sauschuck said Friday police were looking for a white man in his 30s wearing a yellow shirt and a white hat with an orange brim. He said police were reviewing “video evidence” taken in the store and may release the video depending on how the case develops.

Sauschuck praised Hannaford employees for following the “Code Adam” so well, allowing no one to leave the store until the child was located. It is believed the suspect left the store once doors were opened and business resumed.

A “Code Adam” refers to a child-safety program used by many retailers and businesses around the country. It’s named for Adam Walsh, a 6-year-old who was abducted from a Florida store in 1981 and later found dead.

Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom referred questions about what happened Friday and the investigation to police. But Blom said Hannaford was “very proud of our associates and the way they followed procedures and did their jobs. We feel we have a pretty strong policy in place, and it worked.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: RayRouthier

]]> 0 Police Chief Michael Sauschuck talks to reporters outside of the Hannaford store in Back Cove on Friday.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:19:53 +0000
Emily’s List brings recruitment effort to Portland Sat, 21 Oct 2017 21:18:26 +0000 Since Donald Trump won the presidency last year, progressive women have expressed an overwhelming interest in running for office, say leaders of Emily’s List, a Washington advocacy group that recruits and assists pro-choice women to campaign for political office.

“This is big. This is a watershed moment for women in politics,” said Emily Cain of Orono, executive director of Emily’s List, during a training session for potential candidates Saturday at the Portland Public Library. About 25 women showed up to learn what it takes to run for office.

Cain, 37, said the previous high-water mark for Emily’s List recruitment was 2016, when the organization received interest from more than 900 women nationwide. Emily’s List has been recruiting candidates for more than 30 years, since 1985.

Since Trump’s victory last November – defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – Emily’s List has gotten more than 19,000 potential candidate recruits for local, state and national offices.

“Not all of them will run, and most won’t run in 2018,” Cain said. “But this is the next wave.”

Cain is a former Democratic state lawmaker who lost in two attempts to represent Maine’s 2nd District in the U.S. House to Republican Bruce Poliquin in 2014 and 2016.

Republicans will have a similar recruitment effort in Maine for female candidates, with the “SHE Leads Fall Conference” Friday through Oct. 29 in Kennebunkport. Maine first lady Ann LePage, a keynote speaker at the fall conference, has been mentioned by conservative activists as a possible 2018 challenger to U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

To inspire the crowd Saturday, organizers played a video with impassioned speeches by national female Democratic politicians, including some who could run for president in 2020, like U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Maine does not have a Democratic woman elected to statewide office, but U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, is serving her fifth term. On the Republican side, moderate U.S. Sen. Susan Collins was first elected to the Senate in 1996. Collins broke party ranks when she refused to support Trump’s bid for the presidency – she also did not support Clinton – and since Trump has assumed office, Collins has voted against the president on important issues, such as plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In the Maine Legislature, about one third of the members are women. The national average is 25 percent.

“We may be ahead of the curve as a country in Maine, but we are still behind where we need to be in having women participate in government,” Cain said.

Trump offended many during the 2016 campaign when a 2005 “Access Hollywood” audio recording revealed Trump bragging about groping women.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said in the recording. Trump also took heat for calling Clinton a “nasty woman” during a presidential debate.

Since becoming president, Trump has taken controversial stands on issues that affect women, such as weakening rules that require health plans to offer free contraceptives and opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides health care for women.

Kate Coyne-McCoy, who was running one of the training sessions on Saturday, told the women attending that “we need you” to run.

“If you don’t think you’re qualified, turn on C-SPAN and see what’s happening to your country. You’re very qualified,” Coyne-McCoy said.

Sarah Brydon of Portland said she had never thought about running for office before, but now she’s inspired to do so, although she doesn’t yet know what office she will seek.

Jessica Walker, 42, of South Portland said she first heard about Emily’s List from a “West Wing” television show episode. She plans to run for the City Council either in 2018 or 2019.

“Our city is changing quite a bit,” Walker said. “I’d like to be part of the change.”

And Natasha Irving, 34, of Waldoboro said she’s running for district attorney in 2018 representing midcoast Maine. Irving said she wants to reduce criminal recidivism.

“We’re throwing lots of folks in the county jail for very short amounts of time for small crimes,” Irving said. “We’re spending lots of money and not getting any results.”

Cain said while many Mainers are reserved, a person doesn’t have to be an extrovert to be a successful candidate.

“You can be reserved and learn to communicate and connect with people,” Cain said.

She told the women considering running that “it is never something you will ever regret. It’s the best work.”

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0 CainSat, 21 Oct 2017 20:23:01 +0000
Scientists find evidence of a tunnel on the moon Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:17:05 +0000 At the close of the Apollo age, just months before the final moon walk in 1971, a NASA researcher argued that vast tunnels lie beneath the lunar surface.

There was good reason to think so. Lava from ancient volcanoes might have bored miles-long voids beneath the moon, just like volcanoes carved out the Kaumana Lava Tubes in Hawaii.

What a sight a lunar lava cave would be. Protected from meteors and radiation that bombards the surface, the tunnels might preserve evidence from the moon’s early history and clues to its mysterious origins. And many scientist have long dreamed of building bases inside natural moon caves, where lunar explorers might sleep safely in inflatable homes, protected from the storms above.

But the lava tunnels of the moon, like the mythical canals of Mars, proved elusive.


NASA’s Ronald Greeley hypothesized in 1971 that one of the great channels in the moon’s Marius Hills region might in fact be a collapsed tunnel. But he admitted that no mission had yet photographed a lunar cave entrance – and some doubted they even existed.

Half a century after Greeley’s paper was published and NASA left the moon behind, Japanese researchers said last week that they’ve found proof of the tunnels no one could see.

Japan calls its Kaguya orbiter the “largest lunar mission since the Apollo program.” It launched in 2007 with state-of-the-art instruments, deployable satellites and a mission to solve the great mysteries of the moon’s origin.

In 2009, Kaguya drifted 60 miles above the Marius Hills and took a picture of large, deep hole.

Holes aren’t unusual on the moon’s pockmarked surface, but a NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter managed to get a follow-up shot, closer to the ground, as a team of Japanese and American researchers recounted in Geophysical Research Letters last week,

“The floor of the hole extended at least several meters eastward and westward under a ceiling of two other holes,” the researchers wrote – like the mouth of a tunnel.


But the murky picture revealed no more. Did the cave go on for miles, like the hypothetical lava tube, or dead-end just out of sight?

It took years to find out. The Japanese got another assist from the United States in 2011, when NASA put twin spacecrafts – Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL – in orbit around the moon.

GRAIL measured tiny fluctuations in the moon’s gravity to map out mountains and subterranean features. When it flew over the Marius Hills, the researchers wrote, it detected something long and hollow beneath the surface – extending more than 30 miles from the hole Kaguya found.

So Kaguya swung back into action. The Japanese probe blasted radar waves down onto the suspected tunnel, listening for anomalies in the echoes that came back from underground.

Over and over, Kaguya heard a distinctive pattern of echoes. The researchers think it is either the floor or ceiling of a cave – the long-hoped for lava tunnel.

It is very long – 31 miles, according to Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.

It must be ancient, and may be buried more than 300 feet below the surface. It might even contain ice or water.

If the researchers are correct, it sounds just like what the old Apollo scientists and so would-be colonists hoped for so long.

“Their existence has not been confirmed until now,” Junichi Haruyama, one of the paper’s authors, told Agence France-Presse. And now that he knows the tunnel exists, he said, he looks forward to finding out what’s inside.

]]> 0 Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walks on the moon on July 20, 1969, photographed by fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 16:17:05 +0000
Spanish aim to sack Catalonia leaders Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:58:07 +0000 BARCELONA, Spain — The Spanish government announced an unprecedented plan Saturday to sack Catalonia’s separatist leaders, install its own people in their place and call a new local election, using previously untapped constitutional powers to take control of the prosperous region that is threatening to secede.

After a special Cabinet session, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he wants the country’s Senate to allow central ministers to take over the jobs of all senior members of the Catalan government, including control over the regional police, finances and the public media.

In an effort to derail the independence movement, Rajoy is also seeking the Senate’s approval next week to assume the power to call a regional election – something that only Catalonia’s top leader can do now.

Even moderate Catalans were aghast at the scope of the move, and the announcement was met with banging pots and honking cars in the streets of Barcelona.

The city’s mayor, Ada Colau, called Rajoy’s measures “a serious attack” on the self-government of Catalonia.

Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell accused Spain’s central authorities of carrying out a coup.

“Mariano Rajoy has announced a de facto coup d’etat with the goal of ousting a democratically elected government,” Forcadell said, calling it “an authoritarian blow within a member of the European Union.”

]]> 0 hold up signs during a march to protest the latest government move in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 15:58:07 +0000
Iran spokesman says nuclear deal can’t be renegotiated Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:44:35 +0000 TEHRAN, Iran –– The nuclear deal between Iran and world powers can’t be renegotiated despite President Trump’s objection to the terms, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said Saturday.

That includes all annexes, clauses and proposed additions, Abbas Araghchi was quoted as saying by the state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency.

The U.S. has already violated the accord through actions that undermine its implementation, he said.

“We say clearly and unequivocally, no possibility exists for any negotiations regarding the nuclear deal or its annexes or any additions,” Araghchi said at a conference in Moscow.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation that would toughen sanctions against Iran’s missile program, which wasn’t covered by the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Trump called Iran a “rogue” state in a speech on Friday and has refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, even as the United Nations nuclear watchdog and all other parties maintain that it’s abiding by the terms.

]]> 0 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 15:44:35 +0000
Fire heavily damages home in Woodfords neighborhood Sat, 21 Oct 2017 15:49:25 +0000 A Portland firefighter was injured battling a fire that heavily damaged part of a two-family home in the city’s Woodfords neighborhood Saturday morning.

The firefighter injured his knee while helping to hold a hose line inside the home at 79 Lincoln St., said Deputy Chief Robert Stewart. Stewart said the firefighter was treated for his injury and later released from a local hospital. Stewart said he could not name the firefighter or give more information about his injury.

Seven units of the Portland Fire Department responded to the fire about 9:30 a.m. and were on the scene for about three hours, Stewart said. He said the owner of the building, who lives on the first floor, was the only person home at the time of the fire. She was outside when the fire started and was not hurt, Stewart said.

Most of the fire’s damage was in the front of the second-floor unit. He said the tenants of the second-floor unit were not home.

The cause of the fire and the location of its starting point were not obvious, Stewart said. Fire investigators were called in but as of Saturday afternoon Stewart had not seen their report.

According to Portland assessor’s records, the house was built in 1895 and is assessed at $241,800. It was last sold in 2016 for $340,500.

Neighbors told WCSH-TV that the woman who owns the house had put a lot of work into improving it over the last year or more.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: RayRouthier

]]> 0 firefighters gather outside 79 Lincoln St., where they battled a fire for about three hours Saturday morning. A firefighter injured his knee, a fire official said. Photo courtesy of WCSH6Sat, 21 Oct 2017 17:16:12 +0000
Trump won’t block release of JFK assassination documents despite concerns from agencies Sat, 21 Oct 2017 15:15:57 +0000 WASHINGTON — President  Trump announced Saturday morning that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents left in the files related to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.

Kennedy assassination experts have been speculating for weeks about whether Trump would disclose the documents. The 1992 Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act required that the millions of pages – many of them contained in CIA and FBI documents – be published in 25 years, by Oct. 26. Over the years, the National Archives has released most of the documents, either in full or partially redacted.

But one final batch remains and only the president has the authority to extend the papers’ secrecy past the October deadline. In his tweet, Trump seemed to strongly imply he was going to release all the remaining documents. But he also hedged, suggesting that if between now and Oct. 26, other government agencies made a strong case not to release the documents, he wouldn’t. Also, Trump was not clear about whether he would publish all of the documents in full, or with some of them redacted.

In the days leading up to Trump’s tweet, a National Security Council official told The Washington Post that government agencies were urging the president not to release some of the documents. But Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars this week that he personally lobbied Trump to publish all of the documents.

Stone also told Jones that CIA director Mike Pompeo “has been lobbying the president furiously not to release these documents.”

Kennedy assassination experts say they don’t think the last batch of papers contains any major bombshells. They do suspect the papers will shed light on the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, while he was traveling in Mexico City in late September 1963, and courting Cuban and Soviet spies.

Phil Shenon, who wrote a book about the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing, said he was pleased with Trump’s decision. But he wonders to what degree the papers will ultimately be released.

“It’s great news that the president is focused on this and that he’s trying to demonstrate transparency. But the question remains whether he will open the library in full – every word in every document, as the law requires,” Shenon said. “And my understanding is that he won’t without infuriating people at the CIA and elsewhere who are determined to keep at least some of the information secret, especially in documents created in the 1990s.”

Jefferson Morley, a former Post reporter who has studied the Kennedy assassination record for years, said the last tranche of material is also intriguing because it contains files on senior CIA officials from the 1960s – officers well aware of Oswald’s activities in the days before the assassination.

On Saturday morning, Stone was rejoicing on Twitter.

“Yes! Victory!” he tweeted.

]]> 0 John F. Kennedy waves from his car in a motorcade in Dallas. Riding with Kennedy are First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Nellie Connally, second from left, and her husband, Texas Gov. John Connally, far left. President Trump says he plans to release thousands of never-seen government documents related to JFK's assassination.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 17:04:51 +0000
Not real news: A look at what didn’t happen this week Sat, 21 Oct 2017 13:46:49 +0000 A roundup of some of the most popular, but completely untrue, headlines of the week. None of these stories are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out; here are the real facts:

NOT REAL: Illegal Alien Charged With California Wildfire That Killed 40 People

THE FACTS: A homeless man from Mexico was arrested on suspicion of arson Sunday in California, but a Sonoma County sheriff’s official says the fire doesn’t appear to be linked to the wildfires that have killed dozens. Sgt. Spencer Crum tells The Associated Press the blaze was a small fire in a park that was quickly put out. Several websites have sought to connect the man to the California wine country fires. Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan says in a statement that the agency issued detainers against the Mexican citizen, calling the charge troubling “especially in light of the massive wildfires already devastating the region.”

NOT REAL: Oregon Governor Abolishes State’s Second Amendment Rights With Stroke Of The Pen

THE FACTS: It’s still legal to own a gun in Oregon, despite a story from Liberty One that says a new law allows state officials to confiscate guns “from the possession of free individuals.” The law signed in August by Gov. Kate Brown allows a law enforcement officer or household member to obtain a protective order banning a person from weapons possession if a court finds the person is at risk of harming someone else or themselves.

NOT REAL: Pope Francis Absolves 2,000 Pedophile Priests – “No Arrests Necessary”

THE FACTS: A May story that recirculated last week from conspiracy theory outlet YourNewsWire says Francis announced that “over 2,000 pedophile priests will not face criminal prosecution and may be absolved by the Vatican.” Francis acknowledged to reporters on May 13 that the Vatican has a 2,000-case backlog in processing clerical sex abuse cases, but said church was bringing in more staff to handle the cases. Francis denied on the same day ever agreeing to a request for clemency from a pedophile priest.

NOT REAL: Bananas in Oklahoma Walmart Test Positive for HIV Virus

THE FACTS: This story from Healthy Living Base is the latest incarnation of a hoax that has been circulating for years, falsely saying bananas purchased at a Walmart in Tulsa, Oklahoma, infected a 10-year-old by with the AIDS virus. When the AP asked Walmart about that specific claim in June a spokeswoman said the Bentonville, Arkansas, company didn’t know of any illnesses such as HIV linked to bananas purchased at its stores. Walmart says the red streaks seen in some bananas come from a naturally occurring, harmless bacterial growth known as mokillo.

NOT REAL: This New Zealand Town Will Give You A Home And A Job For $165K

THE FACTS: The New Zealand town of Kaitangata has a population of 800 and lots of vacant jobs, but it isn’t offering any money or employment to entice people to move there. Real estate agents in the rural area offered to sell new residents a house and land for about $165,000 last year, but some outlets have falsely reported the town planned to pay residents that amount and give them a new career to move there. The Clutha District, which includes Kaitangata, has tried to clear up the confusion with a post on its website.

This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

]]> 0 bananas are displayed at a Sam's Club store in Bentonville, Ark. The AP reported on Oct. 20, 2017, that a widely shared story claiming that a boy contracted HIV after eating a banana purchased a Walmart in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was false.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 10:19:39 +0000
Ex-teacher from Maine sentenced for posing as teen to get sexual photos Sat, 21 Oct 2017 13:19:43 +0000 MANCHESTER, N.H. — A former Manchester elementary school gym teacher accused of enticing young girls to send him sexually explicit photos has been sentenced to four to eight years in prison.

WMUR-TV reports that Paul Johnson-Yarosevich of Acton, Maine, pleaded guilty Friday to 12 charges of soliciting and distributing the photos. Prosecutors say the former Parker-Varney School employee posed as a teenage girl on Facebook to persuade his victims to send photos.

All five of the victims, who ranged in age from 11 to 13, were in the Manchester school district at the time. One girl’s father told the judge he couldn’t describe the pain of seeing his 11-year-old daughter question her own intelligence because of the acts of a “truly evil individual.”

Johnson-Yarosevich’s sister asked for leniency, calling him a gentle soul.

]]> 0 scene tape police car genericSat, 21 Oct 2017 17:14:31 +0000
Harness racing legend gets ‘second chance’ after prison Sat, 21 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Nine years after he was released from prison for stabbing his wife with a steak knife, Walter Case Jr. will be back in the stirrups Saturday at Scarborough Downs for an afternoon of harness racing.

A legendary career that began 40 years ago at the Bangor Fair and totaled more than 11,000 victories came to an abrupt halt in 2004. Case was convicted of felonious assault after stabbing his estranged wife in a fit of jealous rage fueled by drugs and alcohol.

The woman survived her injuries; Case, 56, was sentenced to five years at Belmont Correctional Institution in Ohio. He was released from prison in the fall of 2008, six months early for good behavior. In three subsequent years of probation, Case completed all required testing and counseling for alcohol, drugs and anger management.

“He’s a different person,” said Luanne Case, who married Walter Case in 2009 and trains horses with him in Ohio, where he moved in 1999 after being banned from tracks in New York and New Jersey. “He’s calmed down a lot. The only spits and spats we’ve had are about whether a horse’s equipment is right or not.”

Walter Case Jr. Photo by Luanne Case

Last week, the Maine Harness Racing Commission approved a provisional one-year license for Case, a Lewiston native who had been turned away by similar boards in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Massachusetts since being released from prison. By a vote of 2-1, the Maine commission reversed its ruling of a month earlier that had confirmed a preliminary denial of Case’s application.

The basis for that preliminary denial was because the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission rejected Case’s 2013 license application – noting he had made “good progress in his rehabilitation since his release from incarceration,” but that his “experience, character and general fitness is not consistent with the best interests of the public, or with racing generally.”

Pennsylvania also imposed a five-year waiting period before he could re-apply. The rules in Maine say that the commission “shall refuse to license or shall suspend the license of any person whose license is currently refused, revoked or suspended in another jurisdiction.”

Evan Fisher, Case’s Augusta-based attorney, argued that Maine’s rules provide a maximum suspension of one year, so the state should not abide by Pennsylvania’s five-year ban. He also pointed to a Maine rule allowing an applicant “to show cause as to why such a penalty (from another state) should not be enforced against him/her in this state.”

Four people familiar with Maine harness racing spoke on Case’s behalf at his Sept. 22 hearing, including a racing judge, a track announcer, a horse owner and a trainer. “They said Walter deserves a second chance,” Fisher said. “They said he’s changed, he’s living a quiet life, he’s rehabilitated. Nobody spoke against him.”

Because one of the five positions on the commission was vacant, four members heard the appeal on Sept. 13. A procedural error led to one member’s recusal. Of the remaining three, Bill Varney, the Bangor businessman and horse enthusiast who chairs the commission, motioned to approve Case’s application.

Nobody seconded. The vote went 2-1 against Case.

Because of the procedural error last month, Varney asked that Case’s appeal be added to the agenda for the next meeting, on Oct. 13. This time, the vote went 2-1 in favor of Case.

“I think it was a matter of fairness and a matter of rules,” Varney said this week. “At least two of us felt he had served his time and he should be given an opportunity to drive again. I think he should be able to make a living and do what he’s done all his life.”

The commission granted Case a one-year conditional license that can be revoked if he has any serious violations or problems. In a career that includes more than 43,000 races at tracks throughout the Northeast and Ohio, Case accumulated 757 incidents, rulings, infractions or suspensions from 1984 through 2003, according to U.S. Trotting Association records cited in the Pennsylvania decision. He served a 10-day jail sentence in Ohio in 2003 for violating a restraining order Nadine Habke had against him. Case and Habke had married in Las Vegas that year.

Now 39, Habke did not return a phone call seeking comment on Case’s return to racing, but last summer she was interviewed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer about her work as an outrider at a harness track in Northfield and her recovery from the stabbing. She said she hasn’t spoken to Case since the incident, but does not speak ill of him.

“He had all the talent in the world, but couldn’t handle life off the track,” she said. “Walter would have been fine if he could have driven horses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

In a 2006 interview from prison, Case told the Portland Press Herald of his remorse.

“I feel ashamed and terrible for doing what I did to her,” he said. “I’ve never been a violent person. I never picked up a gun or knife in my life until that point. It’s something I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life.”

Earlier this week, Case brushed aside questions about life before his release from prison.

“I really don’t want to harp on the negative stuff that’s behind me,” he said by phone from Ohio, where he had spent the morning putting eight horses through their paces at the Warren County Fairgrounds in Lebanon. “I did my time. I’ve been a model citizen ever since I left (prison) and I never plan on going back.”

He handed the cellphone to his wife because a call from another trainer had arrived on his flip phone. She apologized.

“He’s a little standoffish about phone interviews and interviews in public,” Luanne Case said. “He’s timid by nature. I’m the opposite. That’s why we get along so great.”

They met in a barn in Mount Hope, New York, where Walter Case had gone to live with his brother Tim while on probation. It was the dead of winter, late in 2008, and they struck up a friendship.

“It was really cold,” Luanne said. “He saw I had a few more horses to get on the track and jog. He said, ‘If you’d like, I’ll jog those last two.’ He said, ‘I’m from Maine. The cold doesn’t bother me.’ He’s just a kind-hearted person.”

The next summer, they got married. The marriage is the third for both. They lived on a farm in Pine Bush, New York, and spent their first winter in Florida two years ago. Last year, Luanne’s parents mentioned two new tracks that had opened in Ohio and suggested they consider moving back to the Midwest. They did so in May and now live in Springboro, Ohio.

Life outside the track has not always been easy for Case, who despite his long absence from the track remains eighth on harness racing’s career victory list.

“He’s the greatest driver I’ve ever seen on the racetrack,” said Mike Sweeney, the Scarborough Downs announcer. “I grew up watching him. We’re overjoyed we’re going to have an opportunity to come through for Casey this weekend.”

Luanne understands not everyone will be thrilled about her husband’s return to the limelight.

“A lot of women hate him,” she said. “I feel their pain. I went through a very violent marriage before I met Walter.”

Francine Garland Stark, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, doesn’t know Case but she does know that he took a steak knife in hand and used it to stab another human being.

“That’s a profoundly violent act,” she said. “He nearly killed a person.”

Stark said she’s not interested in testimony about Case’s character. She would like to see evidence of what he’s done to repair the damage he caused.

She’s all for rehabilitation and second chances, but said, “I do think it’s simplistic to say, ‘He did the crime, he did the time, let’s move on.’ ”

Sports pages include regular mentions of athletes charged with domestic violence, with football’s Ray Rice and boxing’s Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather bringing attention to an issue that all four major professional leagues are under pressure to address.

“In the athletic world, this is something people are really wrangling with,” Stark said. “That gives me hope. Because when people think deeply about these things, change can happen.”

This weekend’s races will be Case’s first in Maine in nearly 20 years. The season continues at Scarborough Downs through early December.

“Take him for what he is now,” Luanne Case said of her husband. “He’s a great horseman. He takes care of the animals. He terribly regrets what happened, but he also knows what’s done is done. We are always harder on ourselves than people can imagine.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

]]> 0 Case Jr.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:21:55 +0000
District was asked not to hire Gray-New Gloucester football coach who urged taunt Sat, 21 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 GRAY — Duane Greaton was hired as Gray-New Gloucester High School’s football coach despite the objections of a parent who said he had an abusive style and a warning from the school’s previous coach that Greaton was unqualified.

Greaton no longer coaches the team after it came to light that he instructed his players last week to taunt a Yarmouth opponent with the phrase “Who’s your daddy?” because that player’s parents are both women. Greaton was in his first year as the varsity coach after coaching for several years at the youth and middle school levels in Gray-New Gloucester.

Duane Greaton

Renee Blazejewski of Gray said she told SAD 15 Superintendent Craig King that her son, a junior, would not play football if Greaton was hired.

“We’ve seen his tactics and abuse. It goes as far back as third and fourth grade,” Blazejewski said Friday. “He would get in these young players’ face, grab their face masks and swear at them.”

“I emailed Craig King and blatantly said, ‘Please do not hire Duane Greaton.’ The upperclassmen, a lot of them didn’t come back when they found out Duane Greaton was going to be the coach.”

Mark Renna coached the Gray-New Gloucester varsity from 2014-16, but he resigned in May because he said King told him he would need to hire Greaton as an assistant coach. Renna said he told King that hiring Greaton would be a mistake.

“He’s very unqualified. Oh, you can’t trust him at all,” Renna said Friday of Greaton.

Although Greaton was a youth coach, Renna involved him in events with the varsity team. Renna said during the 2015 season Greaton got into a confrontation with one of the high school players and Renna had to step in, telling both parties to apologize. Later that season, Greaton had another confrontation with a member of Renna’s staff.

Greaton did not respond to multiple requests for comment Friday.

King said he had the final say in Greaton’s hire as the varsity coach. “We hired Mr. Greaton using the same process we use for all of our coaches,” King said in an email. “We advertised in local papers; formed an interview committee, interviewed candidates; the committee made a recommendation to me; and I made the final decision.”

King would not confirm whether Greaton resigned or was dismissed, although he said Greaton’s final day of employment in the school district was Monday.

King did not address whether he knew Greaton had been convicted in 2011 of misdemeanor theft and had served 30 days in Cumberland County Jail.

Greaton was charged with felony and misdemeanor theft in May 2010 after police said he stole more than $10,000 worth of Hood Dairy products while he was a delivery driver.

The felony charge was dismissed and Greaton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, according to court records. The rest of his 364-day sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for one year.

Greaton has a current approval background check from the Maine Department of Education. A misdemeanor crime is not an automatic disqualifier for certification, said Rachel Paling, the Maine DOE’s director of communications.

“SAD 15 works hard to ensure that all of its employees meet the Department of Education’s certification, authorization, and approval requirements to work in Maine schools,” King said in an email. “With respect to Mr. Greaton, we can report that he met all of the Department’s certification and approval requirements (including state and federal criminal history record checks) before beginning work for SAD 15.”

On Wednesday, the parents of the Yarmouth player sent a letter to King asking for an update on his investigation into Greaton’s instructions to taunt their son. Lynn and Stephanie Eckersley-Ray wrote in the letter that they were appalled by Greaton’s behavior “as it is not only the explicit targeting of a player, but it is also incredibly discriminatory and hate-laden in nature.”

Lynn Eckersley-Ray said Friday that her family would have no further public comments on the issue. They have spoken with King and received an update on the school’s investigation, she said.

Gray-New Gloucester senior Eric Thompson, one of four team captains, confirmed Friday that Greaton told his players to say “Who’s your Daddy?”

“The short answer is yes,” Thompson said, adding that he and his teammates understood they shouldn’t actually engage in taunting. Rather, Thompson said, it was a tactic by Greaton to get the team fired up.

“He wanted us to be aggressive and play hard,” Thompson said, noting that during the game that the Yarmouth player was not taunted. disables reader comments on certain news stories, including those dealing with sexual assaults and other violent crimes, personal tragedy, racism and other forms of discrimination.


]]> High football players run sprints at the end of practice last week. With a deep squad that includes nine returning starters on offense and six on defense, the Red Storm are hoping this is the year they rise to the top of Class A South.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 00:00:54 +0000
Wild blueberry milk coming from Oakhurst in the spring Sat, 21 Oct 2017 03:20:05 +0000 Oakhurst Dairy plans to introduce a wild Maine blueberry milk this spring, and based on the response the announcement got on social media, there will be some eager customers.

“Will they ship to California?” two Facebook users asked. There were outcries from Illinois and New Hampshire about the immediate need for this milk.

“Low fat?” another asked. (Just whole milk for now.) They weighed in on Oakhurst’s choice of possible labels, voting in favor of one that features Maine’s iconic berry, although someone shot down the logo “straight from the barrens” on the grounds that the term has too many connotations.

But the bigger question, asked over and over, was, will this purple milk be made with real wild Maine blueberries? The Oakhurst representative who handles Facebook promised that yes, the berries would be real.

Oakhurst already offers a blueberry ice tea.

Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook already makes a blueberry milk.

If the new flavor is a hit, that would be good news for wild blueberry growers in Maine. Blueberry farmers continue to increase the yield from the state’s 44,000 acres of blueberry fields. The high yield, coupled with fierce competition from Canada, has led to a glut of wild Maine blueberries on the market. In August the United States Department of Agriculture agreed to buy $10 million worth of the Maine crop, subsidizing the crop for the third year in a row.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0, 20 Oct 2017 23:39:05 +0000
Community gathers in Lewiston to mourn victims of Somali blasts Sat, 21 Oct 2017 03:07:30 +0000 LEWISTON — Suleman Mohamed was among nearly 100 members of the community who gathered Friday in a Lisbon Street basement with walls that were lined with graphic photos showing the aftermath of the recent terrorist bombings in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Mohamed, like the others, was there to mourn and pray for friends and family of the 358 people who died, 228 who were injured and 58 still missing from the attack a week earlier.

Mohamed’s first cousin, Abuukar M. Daahiye, was killed when a truck bomb exploded outside a hotel in which Daahiye and his wife had been staying on Oct. 14.

Daahiye, an American citizen who had lived in Virginia, returned to Somalia a decade ago to help stabilize his war-torn country as a parliamentarian, Mohamed said.

Mohamed’s mother, who lives in Somalia, called him to say his cousin – who had seven children – had died.

“We are here to support and show condolences to those who lost loved ones,” Abdi Abdulla told the standing-room-only crowd. “Some people lost their brothers and sisters.”

The back-to-back bombings were the worst in Somalia’s recorded history.

“While this happened thousands of miles away, it breaks the hearts of many not just around the world, but also in our community,” said Mohamed Khalid, who played on the now-famous Lewiston High School soccer team that won the state championship in 2015.

Now in college, Khalid said: “Many of us have friends and family in Somalia and communications can sometimes be challenging. We worry about those we have not heard from and we grieve for those who have died. It is important to understand that any one of us could have been a victim.”

He noted the many children who died and were wounded in the bombings. “The details are too horrendous to share. Suffice it to say, it was the stuff of nightmares.”

“We need to unite and help one another in this time,” he said.

Donations for the bombing victims and their families were collected along with names and contact information of those who attended in an effort to raise money for relief efforts.

Speakers on Friday included local officials, elected representatives, business owners and church leaders.

Community leader Zam Zam Mohamud asked for a moment of silence.

“The pictures can tell you what’s going on,” she said, gesturing to the color photos pinned to walls of the room in the basement of a Lisbon Street shop in an area of town that houses many Somali-owned shops – aptly referred to by the Somali community as Mogadishu Street.

The photos show scenes of buildings reduced to rubble and streets strewn with body parts.

“It’s really tough,” she said.

James Lysen, the Ward 1 city councilor, said the city has struggled with integration. Immigrants who came to Lewiston were seeking safety, economic opportunity and education, “just like the rest of us.”

But when a tragedy happens, “it happens to all of us,” he said. “When my friends, when my family, when my community is hurting, I am hurting. So we need to pull together more than ever in this tragedy. To bring something good out of it is to connect with other people who may be different than you, who may look different, who speak different, but are part of our community. We need to open our arms and open our hearts to those people.”

Said Mohamud, the owner of the shop above the basement, was twice a candidate for president of Somalia. He circulated a color photograph through the room. It showed two young boys in Mogadishu clutching a cardboard box that contained the remains of their mother, who had been on the street at the time of the bombings.

“It is time to open our hearts and support the victims of this horrifying attack,” Mohamud said.

]]> 0 Mohamed stands Friday night in front of pictures of the destruction caused by terrorist bombings in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 14.Fri, 20 Oct 2017 23:48:32 +0000
Colby College launches $750 million campaign Sat, 21 Oct 2017 02:57:57 +0000 WATERVILLE — Colby College launched a $750 million fundraising campaign Friday night and announced it has already raised more than $380 million toward that goal.

More than 800 Colby trustees, alumni, donors, administrators, faculty, students, Waterville city officials and others turned out at the Waterville Opera House for the announcement, which officially led the fundraising campaign into its public phase after just a year of a private leadership phase.

The campaign will enable Colby to introduce transformational initiatives, build on already strong academic programs, improve access to a Colby education for deserving students from around the globe, provide new facilities that support a multidisciplinary approach to learning and connect the college to the community beyond its campus, according to college officials. Construction of a new performing arts and innovation center also will be built as part of the effort.

Campaign funds will enable Colby to continue to redefine the liberal arts, offering distinctive programs to connect students to a rapidly changing world and prepare them to solve the most vexing issues of our time, Colby officials said.

The campaign theme, “Dare Northward,” reflects the bold and unprecedented nature of the initiatives and priorities it will support, they said.

Eric S. Rosengren, chairman of the Colby board of trustees and a 1979 Colby graduate, said Dare Northward refers not just to the current upward momentum of the college but also to its remarkable history, starting with its founders who sailed up the Kennebec River in a sloop aptly called The Hero, to charter the school in 1813.

“In 1877, Colby admitted women, more than 100 years before many of our peer institutions,” Rosengren said.

Rosengren said Waterville residents raised $107,000 to buy land on Mayflower Hill in 1930 for the college, as the survival of Colby was in question, financial institutions were failing and unemployment was rising.

It was a daring move, according to Rosengren. Just as the country fell into the Great Depression, Colby’s leaders were willing to take a significant risk to secure the future of the college.

Colby is working with civic, philanthropic and art leaders to help revitalize downtown Waterville.

Colby invested $5 million to renovate the former Hains building, a historic bank building on Main Street, and is building a $25 million mixed-use development that will open in the fall of 2018 and house 200 Colby students and faculty and staff members working in civic engagement. Colby also plans to build a hotel and restaurant next year on Main Street that would serve the Waterville community and visitors.

Colby’s total investment in Waterville is expected to exceed $45 million, with significant additional resources being committed by private investors, according to college officials.

Colby officials Friday night announced two new major commitments to the campaign, including a gift from Colby trustee and campaign co-chairman Bill Alfond, a 1972 Colby graduate, and his wife, Joan, to name the residential and mixed-use complex that Colby is building downtown at 150 Main St.

Colby President David Greene said no family has shown a greater commitment to the partnership between the city and Colby than the Alfonds, and he announced that the mixed-use residential complex will be named for Bill and Joan Alfond.

“This building is the bridge that reconnects Colby and Waterville,” he said.

Bill Alfond, who received a standing ovation as he arrived on stage, said he and Greene share a vision of building community, and a courageous Colby board gave authority and the budget for Greene to go ahead with that vision.

Alfond said he grew up in Waterville, spent part of his professional career here and comes back because it is home.

“Colby’s investment in downtown demonstrates a true commitment in shortening the distance between Mayflower Hill and Waterville,” Alfond said. “Soon there’ll be no gap.”

Greene announced a naming gift from trustee Michael Gordon, a 1966 Colby graduate, for the new Colby center for arts and innovation that will include a concert hall, theater, and dance studios and serve as a creative laboratory for students and faculty members across disciplines. The announcement, and Gordon, received a standing ovation.

More than 10,000 donors have contributed to the campaign so far, and Colby has received 32 contributions of $1 million or more, according to a news release the college issued in conjunction with Friday’s event.

Campaign co-chairman Robert E. Diamond, a 1973 Colby graduate and former chairman of the board of trustees, said that when Greene was inaugurated three years ago, the new president said: “This is Colby’s moment. This is Colby’s time.”

“Today, as we publicly launch this campaign already well on our way toward our audacious goal, we can see how right he was,” said Diamond, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby in 2008 and is the parent of a 2012 Colby graduate.

“Colby is truly an extraordinary institution, and now, with the support of our alumni and friends, we will be able to take this great college to the next level, to the very top tier.”

Major gifts to the campaign include more than $100 million to establish the Lunder Institute for American Art, which was launched this fall. The campaign commitment from Overseer Peter Lunder, a 1956 Colby graduate who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1998, and his wife, Life Trustee Paula Crane Lunder, who also received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1998, included nearly 1,150 new works by artists including Maya Lin, Joan Mitchell, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

The Lunder commitment established Colby as the only liberal arts college with both an innovative art museum dedicated to cross-disciplinary study and a global research center for American art.

The Lunders stepped onto the Opera House stage Friday night to a raucous standing ovation.

“Welcome, everybody,” Peter Lunder said. “Why Colby? We love Colby.”

He said that for 65 years, he and his wife have been involved in Colby and five great Colby presidents, including Greene.

“We’re happy and we’ll continue to support Colby as long as we’re breathing,” he said, “and after that, we hope our family does the same. Colby has a superstar president that operates on 12 cylinders – eight isn’t enough – and to all those who have supported David and his dreams, we applaud you.”

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

]]> 0 College administrators and donors toss dirt with chrome shovels during Friday's ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of a $200 million athletic complex, one of several projects being built by the college in Waterville.Fri, 20 Oct 2017 23:39:53 +0000
At least one person dies in crash in Buckfield Sat, 21 Oct 2017 02:43:54 +0000 BUCKFIELD — At least one person died in a crash at the intersection of routes 117 and 124 in Buckfield on Friday night.

Oxford County Sheriff’s deputies and rescue crews responded to the scene and LifeFlight was called the 6:30 p.m. wreck, but was then canceled.

It was believed the crash involved only one vehicle.

Oxford County Sheriff’s deputies were investigating the crash at the four-way intersection that is about 2 miles from Buckfield’s downtown area.

]]> 0 scene tape police car genericFri, 20 Oct 2017 22:49:25 +0000
With budget passed, Trump promises historical tax cuts Sat, 21 Oct 2017 02:36:13 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump promised tax cuts Friday “which will be the biggest in the history of our country” following Senate passage of a $4 trillion budget that lays the groundwork for Republicans’ promised tax legislation.

Republicans hope to push the first tax overhaul in three decades through Congress by year’s end, an ambitious goal that would fulfill multiple campaign promises but could run aground over any number of disputes. Failure could cost the party dearly in next year’s midterm elections.

The budget plan, which passed on a near party-line vote late Thursday, includes rules that will allow Republicans to get tax legislation through the Senate without Democratic votes and without fear of a Democratic filibuster. Nonetheless, the Republicans’ narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate will be difficult for leadership to navigate, as illustrated by the Republicans’ multiple failures to pass legislation repealing and replacing Obama’s health care law.

The final vote on the budget was 51-49 with deficit hawk Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky the lone opposing Republican vote.

Trump insisted over Twitter on Friday that Paul would be with him in the end on taxes, even though the senator has been critical of the tax package as it’s emerged thus far.

Trump wrote, “The Budget passed late last night, 51 to 49. We got ZERO Democrat votes with only Rand Paul (he will vote for Tax Cuts) voting against……..This now allows for the passage of large scale Tax Cuts (and Reform), which will be the biggest in the history of our country!”

It remains to be seen whether the overhaul will add up to the biggest tax cuts ever. Trump and Republicans have only produced a nine-page framework, leaving plenty of blanks that Congress needs to fill in over the coming months on income-tax brackets and elimination of some favored deductions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Friday the Republicans will add a fourth tax bracket for high-income people to the three originally proposed, but Ryan didn’t say what the tax rate would be for that bracket. Speaking on “CBS This Morning,” Ryan said Republicans are working on the tax rate for “the fourth bracket that the president and others are talking about that we’re going to do.”

The House has passed a different budget, but House Republicans signaled they would accept the Senate plan to avoid delaying the tax measure.

Republicans are looking for accomplishments following an embarrassing drought of legislative achievements despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House. Republican lawmakers publicly admit that failure on taxes would be politically devastating with control of the House and Senate at stake in next year’s midterm elections.

]]> 0 Trump, shown Wednesday with Sen. Orrin Hatch, boasted in a Friday tweet about Senate passage of his budget late Thursday, 51-49.Fri, 20 Oct 2017 22:36:13 +0000
Fund rejection leads to layoffs at Maine CareerCenters Sat, 21 Oct 2017 02:27:15 +0000 WILTON — Patty Ladd, a manager at the Wilton CareerCenter and the Rumford satellite office, helps adult job seekers find opportunities for training, skill upgrades and disadvantaged workers.

She is among 14 employees of Western Maine Community Action who work at CareerCenters in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties who received conditional layoff notices on Oct. 1, effective Oct. 31. Four employees serve the Wilton and Rumford offices, eight serve the Lewiston office and two work at the South Paris office.

The layoffs are connected to Gov. Paul LePage’s rejection of more than $9 million from the U.S. Department of Labor under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, from which Western Maine Community Action receives money.

“The governor sought an alternative way of funding the WIOA Title 1B program in Maine,” Laura Hudson, communication director for the Maine Department of Labor, wrote in an email. “Although he specifically requested the funding not be sent to the Maine Department of Labor, he was open to having the funding go directly to the workforce boards at the time the letter was written. Subsequent discussions with (U.S. Department of Labor) indicated that federal officials believe the federal law does not authorize (the federal department) to bypass the state. The goal of the governor was to eliminate a duplicative layer of administration and put more money into job training.”

Maine Department of Labor employees who work at the Wilton center did not receive layoff notices, according to Hudson.

The Community Action agency provides a variety of services, including career counseling, case management, training and some support services such as child care at centers.

They work with businesses that share the skills needed for a job and try to match those needed skills to someone seeking a job either through the agency or through partner resources, Ladd said.

The CareerCenter is made up of many programs that share space in the buildings.

“We partner with the Bureau of Employment Services, Bureau of Rehabilitation (Services), and bureau of taxation,” Ladd said, the latter being a reference to Maine Revenue Services.

There are three workforce development boards in the state, and it has been reported the governor wants one board.

Maine’s goal remains reforming this federal system to eliminate 10 percent of funds paying for an extra layer of administration and to put more money into skill development that will lead people to high-paying careers, Hudson wrote. Related to that, the 2018 budget for this funding suggests a 40 percent cut. These actions now are meant to attempt to reform the system before these potential cuts, she wrote.

“Most states our size (less than 1 million in its workforce) operate the way our governor is proposing we operate. We continue to try to get to yes with the U.S. DOL so that these funds can stay in Maine,” she wrote.

However, there is concern locally that if the state does not have the partners to share costs of the CareerCenter buildings, they will be closed and people will have to travel farther to get assistance.

“We all share costs of the building,” Ladd said.

The Community Action agency shares the cost of the four centers, including 40 percent of the Wilton center and 100 percent of the Rumford space, and it pays for eight staff spaces, half of the information center and other costs associated with the Lewiston center, said James Trundy, the agency’s program manager for employment training program.

The agency has a freeze on enrollments and spending for customers.

“In anticipation of not having funding, we advised our customers this summer that we could do some payments for training activities but that we may not be able to pay support service costs such as travel or child care,” Trundy said.

“We have no plans to close the CareerCenter at this time,” Hudson said. “We may, however, try to adjust space and schedule to accommodate the lost capacity after Western Maine Community Action moves out. That remains to be seen,” Hudson wrote. “It is our intention and plan to continue providing services in western Maine.”

Trundy said they not only provide services at the centers, but also work with adult education and subsidize some training.

The Wilton center serves an average of about 25 people per day. Some people need more help than others, said Pat Morse, who also works for Community Action.

“Some people come in with a scowl and leave with a smile. We’re here to help them, and we do,” Morse said.

]]> 0 Ladd, left, talks with Pat Morse at the Wilton CareerCenter. Ladd and Morse are among 14 Western Maine Community Action employees who received conditional layoff notices.Fri, 20 Oct 2017 23:50:39 +0000
Court blocks immigrant teen’s access to abortion Sat, 21 Oct 2017 02:03:50 +0000 WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court is blocking for now an abortion sought by a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant being held in a Texas facility, ruling Friday that the government should be given time to try to release her so she can obtain the abortion outside of its custody.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its ruling a few hours after hearing arguments from lawyers for the Trump administration and the teenager. The court ruled 2-1 that the government should have until Oct. 31 to release the girl into the custody of a so-called sponsor, such as an adult relative in the United States. If that happens, she could obtain an abortion if she chooses. If she isn’t released, the case can go back to court.

The teenager, whose name and country of origin have been withheld because she’s a minor, is 15 weeks pregnant.

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Polygraph excluded from trial of mother accused of killing infant Sat, 21 Oct 2017 01:52:26 +0000 A motion to admit polygraph test results as evidence in the manslaughter trial of Miranda Hopkins of Troy, who is accused of killing her 7-week-old baby in January, was denied Friday by a judge in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast.

Hopkins’ lawyer, Laura Shaw, filed a motion in August to have the results of polygraph tests allowed as evidence at trial, showing that Hopkins did not kill her infant son.

Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to begin Thursday.

Shaw filed the motion to admit the test and its results as they “overwhelmingly demonstrated” that Hopkins was innocent, according to court documents. Shaw said the examination, conducted by licensed polygraph administrator Mark Teceno, indicated there was more than a 99 percent certainty that Hopkins was telling the truth.

Superior Court Justice Robert Murray disagreed, ruling from the bench following a hearing on the motion Friday, according to a court clerk.

Shaw did not return repeated calls and messages Friday, despite having alerted reporters about the hearing earlier in the day. Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea did not reply to an email seeking comment on the ruling.

Lisa Marchese, head of the criminal division at the Maine Attorney General’s Office, said by phone Friday that the state objected to the introduction of the polygraph test results during Hopkins’ trial.

“There is overwhelming case law in support of the state’s position opposing the defendant’s motion,” Marchese said.

Hopkins called 911 on Jan. 12 from her mobile home on North Dixmont Road in Troy, saying her infant son, Jaxson, was unresponsive. The infant was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the baby’s death was listed as blunt force trauma that included cuts and bruises on the head and skull; rib fractures, and bleeding on the surface of the brain.

Hopkins allegedly told authorities she woke up and found her baby cold, white and “beat to hell.” Hopkins lived with Jaxson and two other sons, ages 6 and 8, who both have autism, she told police.

She was arrested Jan. 13.

Hopkins originally was charged with knowing or depraved indifference murder, punishable by 25 years to life in prison. She was indicted by the Waldo County grand jury in February on a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Manslaughter is a Class A felony punishable by a period of time in prison not to exceed 30 years.

Shaw conceded in her motion to allow the test results that the Law Court in Maine generally supports the belief that polygraph examinations are not sufficiently reliable to allow the results, or a defendant’s willingness or unwillingness to take the test, as evidence.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

Twitter: Doug_Harlow

]]> 0 Hopkins, shown Jan. 17 being led into court in Belfast, is charged with manslaughter in the death of her infant son.Fri, 20 Oct 2017 22:06:44 +0000
Poll shows Americans still divided on gun laws after Las Vegas massacre Sat, 21 Oct 2017 01:50:40 +0000 ATLANTA — The slaying of nearly five dozen people in Las Vegas did little to change Americans’ opinions about gun laws.

The nation is closely divided on whether restricting firearms would reduce such mass shootings or homicides, though a majority favor tighter laws as they have for several years, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The massive divide on stricter limits remains firmly in place.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 12-16, about two weeks after 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired on a crowded music festival taking place across the street from his hotel room, killing 58 and wounding more than 540 before killing himself.

In this latest survey, 61 percent said the country’s gun laws should be tougher, while 27 percent would rather see them remain the same and 11 percent want them to be less strict. That’s similar to the results of an AP-GfK poll in July 2016.

Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, but just a third of Republicans, want to see gun laws made stricter.

About half of Americans said they think making it more difficult to buy a gun would reduce the number of mass shootings in the country, and slightly under half said it would reduce the number of homicides.

About half felt it would reduce the number of accidental shootings, 4 in 10 that it would reduce the number of suicides and only about a third felt it would reduce gang violence.

There are indications of a generational divide on the issue. Most of those in the survey who are younger than 30 said they believe stricter gun laws would result in fewer mass shootings, homicides and accidental shootings.

The poll also found that a majority of Americans disapprove of how President Trump is handling gun control. Trump is the first president since Ronald Reagan to address the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association.

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