The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News Fri, 27 May 2016 16:38:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sitel plans to lay off up to 120 workers in Caribou Fri, 27 May 2016 15:59:24 +0000 Sales and customer service outsourcing firm Sitel is planning to lay off up to 120 workers in July at its call center in Caribou.

The company informed the state Department of Labor that the planned layoffs are the result of the company losing a major client, Comcast. Sitel said it still serves three other clients at the Caribou location and will try to reduce the number of layoffs by picking up new business.

This story will be updated.

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Video: Memorial Day weekend weather warm with showers arriving Fri, 27 May 2016 15:38:26 +0000 0, 27 May 2016 11:38:26 +0000 Saving salamanders, including Maine’s red-spotted newts Fri, 27 May 2016 15:37:05 +0000 SUNDERLAND, Vt. — Holding a sandwich bag containing a squirming, Eastern red-spotted newt, Evan Grant inspects its shiny skin for signs of a killer.

If he finds what he’s looking for, a gruesome fate awaits the amphibian. Ulcers would cover its body, eating away the skin and killing it outright or leaving it vulnerable to infection. Breathing would come with difficulty, and the lizard-like creature couldn’t absorb through its skin the water and minerals it needs.

Death would follow, not just for the specimen Grant holds at a pond in Vermont, but for any salamander afflicted by a fungus that has ravaged its brethren in parts of Europe. There’s no sign it has yet reached North America, home to 190 of the world’s 655 salamander species, but scientists aren’t taking chances.

Fearing the fungus could reach the United States through the pet trade, Grant and an army of fellow wildlife biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey, the lead federal agency in the fight, are checking salamanders nationwide. The goal is to take samples from 10,000 salamanders — including red-spotted newts from Maine and New Hampshire down to Virginia and over to Louisiana; Pacific newts in California and Oregon; and the flatwoods salamander in Florida, among others.

“We have the highest biodiversity of salamanders in the world,” said David Hoskins, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s fish and aquatic conservation program. “We were concerned that once the fungus reaches the United States — if it was introduced into wild populations — it could become established and spread and potentially wipe out important species of salamanders.”

They may be small, hard to spot and overlooked compared with tigers and polar bears. But salamanders are critical indicators of environmental health, and their roles in wetlands, lakes and forests are critical in controlling insect populations and providing food for other animals. Anything that harms them stands to harm other species.

The USGS hasn’t yet found the fungus in any of the nearly 1,000 salamanders it has sampled across the country. But there are many more salamanders than biologists looking for them.

Researchers believe the fungus, related to one that has decimated frog populations around the world, likely arrived about seven years ago in Europe through the pet trade and was released in the wild when captive animals escaped or were abandoned. It has since been found in captive populations of fire salamanders, Europe’s best-known species, in the United Kingdom and Germany. There have also been outbreaks in wild populations in Belgium.

Wherever the fungus has been found, the end result is not good. In the Netherlands, the fungus has wiped out almost all fire salamanders.

The loss of what’s known as a “sentinel species” — the proverbial canary in the coal mine — could “disrupt the equilibrium of the ecosystems” across Europe, said An Martel, a Belgian professor who discovered the fungus on salamanders in the Netherlands.

“Very few animals are left,” Martel said. “It has had a huge impact. The populations where the fungus is present are almost gone. We don’t find any salamanders anymore.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose role is regulating the trade in amphibians and other species, in January prohibited 201 salamander species from being imported or traded across state lines, which should put a dent in a pet industry that saw 2.5 million salamanders imported between 2004 and 2014.

The move aims to get ahead of the fungus and avert the problems that came with combating the frog fungus, which wiped out several species before action plans started, Hoskins said.

At the pond in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, the shoreline teeming with red-spotted newts, Grant and colleague Adrianne Brand trapped as many as 30 in small nets or wire traps resting on the lake bottom.

The pair measured the newts, recorded sex ratios and looked for signs of the fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, commonly called Bsal. Then they swabbed the creatures’ hands and underside for any evidence of Bsal and put the samples in a test tube for freezing and shipment to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for analysis.

If the fungus is found, the response would depend on the location and the likelihood of it spreading; it could include limiting access to certain spots as well as quarantining or treating sick salamanders.

“For salamander diversity, I would hope not to find it,” Brand said. “But it is an interesting scientific issue. We have a chance to learn a lot. If it is a problem, we have a lot to learn about being on the forefront of disease.”

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Gorham Savings picks finalists for its annual LaunchPad competition Fri, 27 May 2016 15:34:10 +0000 Gorham Savings Bank has chosen Blue Ox Malthouse, Fluid Farms, Garbage to Garden, Good To-Go and UniteGPS as the five finalists in this year’s LaunchPad competition. The winner will receive a $50,000 grant.

The five early-stage Maine businesses were chosen from a pool of 179 applicants because of their focus on “sustainability and convenience in a busy world,” according to a Gorham Savings news release. All five will participate in a live-pitch competition to be held the evening of June 7 at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall in Portland.

In front of a live audience, an independent panel of judges will decide which business will be awarded the $50,000 grant from Gorham Savings. This year’s judges will be WEX Inc. President and CEO Melissa Smith, Winxnet CEO and co-founder Chris Claudio, and the Director of Southern Maine Community College’s Entrepreneurial Center, Michelle Neujahr.

Now in its fourth year, LaunchPad is designed to help fund the growth of one promising, early-stage Maine business. Entries for this year’s competition were submitted via an online form during the entry period of April 1 to May 1.

“Maine’s economy is made up of thousands of small and innovative businesses, and we want to see those numbers grow and more businesses succeed,” said Chris Emmons, president and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank, in the release. “We’re constantly inspired by the success stories we hear from entrepreneurs, and we’re looking forward to giving another one a meaningful boost this year.”

Blue Ox Malthouse of Lisbon Falls turns raw grain from local farms into malt used by craft breweries. The farmer-to-brewer link the malthouse creates also promotes economic sustainability.

Fluid Farms Aquaponic Produce in Portland grows organic greens and freshwater tilapia (striped bass), and operates the state’s only Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association-certified organic aquaponic greenhouse.

Garbage to Garden, also in Portland, makes it easier for residents, schools, and businesses to divert their food scraps – including meat, dairy and bones – from landfills. Each week, participants leave their bucket of scraps at the curbside to be exchanged for a fresh, clean one, and if requested, a bag of compost.

Good To-Go, in Kittery, offers a line of all-natural, dehydrated gourmet meals catering to “active adventurers.” Each meal is handmade by nationally-recognized chef Jennifer Scism, who once defeated Mario Batali on Food Network’s Iron Chef.

UniteGPS of Portland aims to improve a different outdoor experience: waiting for the school bus. The company’s GPS solution, CrossWalk, solves the problems of parents and students not knowing exactly when the bus will arrive each day.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

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Rafael Nadal withdraws from French Open Fri, 27 May 2016 15:20:05 +0000 PARIS — Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal says he is pulling out of the French Open because of an injury to his left wrist.

The left-handed Nadal made the announcement at a hastily arranged news conference Friday, one day before he would have been scheduled to play his third-round match.

He says he got an injection to numb the wrist before playing in the second round on Thursday.

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Maine man gets 2-week sentence for 2013 road rage incident Fri, 27 May 2016 14:56:59 +0000 AUBURN — A Maine man is heading to prison for two weeks for a 2013 road rage incident that a prosecutor says is one of the worst he’s ever seen.

The Sun Journal reports the sentence was handed down against 33-year-old Adam Getchell, who pleaded guilty to reckless conduct and criminal mischief on Thursday.

The Auburn man was convicted in March of driving to endanger, but acquitted of a hate crime in the incident.

Authorities had said Getchell tried to block 19-year-old motorist Matthew Wooten Jr. from passing him. When Wooten did pass him, Getchell apparently swerved and hit Wooten’s rear fender.

A police recording caught Getchell using racial epithets afterward inside a police cruiser.

Getchell wrote in a letter to the court that he apologized for his poor choices.

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UMaine wind project back in running for major federal grant Fri, 27 May 2016 14:42:07 +0000 An experimental offshore wind turbine being developed by a University of Maine-led consortium is a finalist for a major federal grant that’s critical for building a floating, deep-water wind farm and creating a new clean-energy industry.

Maine’s New England Aqua Ventus I offshore wind pilot project, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to participate in the Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration program, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King announced Friday.

The announcement means the Maine venture will be one of up to three leading projects that are each eligible for up to $40 million in funding over three years for the construction phase of the demonstration program.

“This decision is outstanding news for Maine and a testament to the unmatched hard work and ingenuity of the University of Maine and the numerous Aqua Ventus partners,” Collins and King said in a joint statement. “We applaud them for their efforts and will continue to support them as they strive to lead our state and nation into a brighter, cleaner energy future.” The Maine project had been competing with demonstration proposals in other states for a demonstration program grant, but was passed over in 2014 in favor of ventures in New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon. Instead, Maine became an alternate, and got $3 million to continue engineering and design work.

The Energy Department wants the United States to develop an offshore wind industry because roughly 80 percent of power demand occurs in coastal states. Europe has hundreds of offshore wind turbines, mostly in shallow water on steel towers buried in the seabed. The Obama Administration is seeking new designs to radically cut the cost of wind energy. One idea is turbines that float far offshore, where the wind is stronger and steadier and where people can’t see or hear them.

But things haven’t gone as planned. Each of the three winners has been unable to secure a power purchase agreement for electric output. Last November, those projects received six-month extensions from the Department of Energy, to try to resolve their problems. At the same time, Maine won $3.7 million to further refine its proposal, which would be located off Monhegan Island.

Six month later, the three competitors still appear to be bogged down with cost and regulatory issues.

In Oregon, Maine’s chief rival is a floating turbine technology being developed by Principle Power. But utilities have balked at buying the electricity, which they say is too costly for ratepayers.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie this month vetoed a bill that would have allowed Fishermen’s Energy to pursue its plans with state utility regulators.

In Virginia, Dominion Virginia Power sent out a second round of bids in an effort to lower the cost of building its turbine proposal. The first bids were twice as expensive as expected.

Maine supporters have been waiting to hear if the Energy Department will give up on any of the winning bids and whether it has concluded that Aqua Ventus has a better chance of coming to fruition. The project won a 20-year power-purchase agreement from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. An average Central Maine Power Co. home customer would pay an additional 73 cents a month, or $8.70 in the first year.

Maine Aqua Ventus is being developed by a for-profit spinoff that represents UMaine, Cianbro Corp. and Emera Inc. of Nova Scotia. The proposal is unique in that it’s made from advanced composite materials instead of steel, to fight corrosion and reduce weight. The hull is concrete, which can be produced in Maine.

In 2013, the partners launched a one-eight scale model and tested it off Castine. The pilot project would be full size, consisting of two turbines with a capacity of six megawatts, enough to power 6,000 average homes.

Clean-energy advocates see Aqua Ventus as Maine’s only near-term chance of developing an offshore wind industry.

In 2011, the Norwegian energy giant Statoil proposed an experimental, $120 million floating wind farm off Boothbay Harbor. But the company left Maine after a political maneuver by Gov. Paul LePage in 2013, and instead went to Scotland. Last week, Statoil announced plans to build the world’s largest floating wind farm involving five floating turbines off the Scottish coast.

Closer to Maine, other states have emerged as research and development centers for the evolving technology. In Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind began laying undersea cable this month to towers at its 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, the country’s first offshore wind farm.

Even with a federal grant, the Maine project still needs to attract more than $100 million in private investment.

It also will seek to gain support on Monhegan Island, where at least some summer and year-rounds residents are concerned about the visual impact of the project and its potential interference with lobster fishing.

The turbines will be anchored 2.5 miles off the island’s southern tip and roughly 10 miles off the mainland. With turbine hubs 350 feet above the water and blade tips reaching 600 feet into the sky, the project would be visible from some locations, but not from the village, according to Jake Ward, vice president of innovation and economic development at UMaine.

Ward was on the island this week, meeting with a task force formed by the plantation. A citizen group, the Monhegan Energy Action Coalition, also has come together to question the scale of the project and the impact of an undersea cable.

“Some people like it, some don’t,” Ward said. “Like any group, there are people on all sides.”

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or


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Dr. Heimlich, 96, saves choking woman with famous maneuver Fri, 27 May 2016 13:57:22 +0000 CINCINNATI — The 96-year-old Cincinnati surgeon credited with developing his namesake Heimlich maneuver recently used the emergency technique for the first time himself to save a woman choking on food at his senior living center.

Dr. Henry Heimlich told The Cincinnati Enquirer in an interview Thursday he has demonstrated the well-known maneuver many times through the years but had never before used it on a person who was choking.

An employee at the Deupree House in Cincinnati where Heimlich lives says the retired chest surgeon was in the room when an 87-year-old woman began choking. The employee says Heimlich dislodged a piece of hamburger from the woman’s airway and she quickly recovered.

Heimlich says it made him appreciate how wonderful it has been “to be able to save all those lives.”

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Morning house fire in Gorham displaces family, injures firefighter Fri, 27 May 2016 13:25:18 +0000 One firefighter suffered minor injuries when a fire tore through a garage and single-family home on Plummer road in Gorham on Friday morning.

Seth Crossman, 28, who has owned the home at 11 Plummer Road for about four years, awoke to the sound of people screaming that his house was on fire.

Gorham Deputy Fire Chief Ken Fickett said the fire appears to have started in the garage, which was fully afire when the first firefighters arrived.

Crossman said he bought the home to help out his extended family, who lost their home to a bank. About seven people, spanning three generations and including one unrelated friend of Crossman’s, were living in the home at the time.

“I bought it four years ago to help my family out,” said Crossman, who stood barefoot and shirtless across the street as firefighters picked through and extinguished the last smoldering embers.

Now, much of the home is ruined, but Fickett, the deputy fire chief, said a portion of the home may be salvageable.

The Red Cross of Maine is expected to be on scene Friday morning to help Crossman and his family, Fickett said.

So far, no one interviewed who was inside the home at the time of the fire could pinpoint why or where it started. The state Fire Marshal’s office is being called to investigate the cause, Fickett said.

Also destroyed by the flames was a camper set up behind the garage, where Crossman’s brother, Chris Green, was living. Green, 24, was at work when Crossman called to tell him the house was ablaze.

Green rushed from his job at a body shop, but by the time he arrived, the camper was already burning.

“Everything I owned was in that camper,” Green said. “Everything.”

Another resident, Shawn Cressey, 22, one of Crossman’s friends, said he fled the house before it filled with smoke, but ran back in to retrieve his two dogs, who made it out uninjured.

Asked if he was concerned with the loss of his belongings, Cressey was unmoved.

“I was more worried about me and my animals,” he said. “I don’t give a (expletive) about my stuff.”

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Origins of key Clinton emails from report are a mystery Fri, 27 May 2016 13:23:57 +0000 WASHINGTON — Since her use of a private email server was made public last year, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has insisted she turned over all work-related emails to the State Department to be released to the public.

But after 14 months of public scrutiny and the release of tens of thousands of emails, an agency watchdog’s discovery of at least three previously undisclosed emails has renewed concerns that Clinton was not completely forthcoming when she turned over a trove of 55,000 pages of emails. And the revelation has spawned fresh criticism from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The three messages include Clinton’s own explanation of why she wanted her emails kept private: In a November 2010 email, Clinton worried that her personal messages could become accessible to outsiders. The messages appear to have been found among electronic files of four former top Clinton State Department aides.

Two other messages a year later divulged possible security weaknesses in the home email system she used while secretary of state. The Clinton campaign has previously denied that her home server was compromised.

On Thursday, Clinton, who has called her use of a private email server “a mistake,” said she had been forthcoming with her personal emails and said she believed her use of a private email account was allowed.

“I have provided all of my work-related emails, and I’ve asked that they be made public, and I think that demonstrates that I wanted to make sure that this information was part of the official records,” Clinton said, according to an interview transcript provided by ABC News.

Most of Clinton’s emails have been made public by the State Department over the past year due to both a court order and Clinton’s willingness to turn them over. But hundreds were censored for national security reasons and 22 emails were completely withheld because the agency said they contained top secret material — a matter now under investigation by the FBI.

Clinton said in March 2015 that she would turn over all work-related emails to the State Department after removing private messages that contained personal and family material. “No one wants their personal emails made public and I think most people understand that and respect their privacy,” she said after her exclusive use of private emails to conduct State Department business was confirmed by media reports.

Senate investigators have asked for numerous emails about Clinton’s server as part of their own inquiry into Clinton’s email practices in recent months, but they didn’t get copies of key messages made public by the State Department’s own watchdog this week, a senior Republican senator said Thursday.

“It is disturbing that the State Department knew it had emails like this and turned them over to the inspector general, but not to Congress,” said Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee that’s been probing Clinton’s use of a private server.

The emails appear to contain work-related passages, raising questions about why they were not turned over to the State Department last year. The inspector general noted that Clinton’s production of work-related emails was “incomplete,” missing not only the three emails but numerous others covering Clinton’s first four months in office.

The inspector general also found Clinton’s email set up violated agency policies and could have left sensitive government information vulnerable. It also complicated federal archiving of her emails, in turn making it more difficult to obtain them under the Freedom of Information Act.

On Thursday, Clinton told ABC News her use of the personal email was “allowed,” saying that “the rules have been clarified since I left.” In a later interview Thursday with CNN, Clinton said she “believed it was allowed.”

A spokesman for the Clinton campaign did not respond to emailed questions Thursday. An inspector general’s spokesman declined to discuss the report.

The report said the inspector general was able to reconstruct some of Clinton’s missing emails by searching the email files of four former Clinton aides who had turned over thousands of pages of communications in 2015 at the request of the State Department, which is defending itself in multiple public records lawsuits, including one filed by The Associated Press. The four aides who turned over those files, according to the report, were Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and top aides Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan and Philippe Reines.

Abedin was the aide who authored the key email in November 2010 that provoked Clinton’s concerns about outsiders obtaining her personal emails. After the State Department’s computer spam filters apparently prevented Clinton from sending a message to all department employees from her private server, Abedin suggested that she either open an official agency email or make her private address available to the agency.

Clinton told Abedin she was open to getting a separate email address but didn’t want “any risk of the personal being accessible.” Clinton never used an official State Department address, only using several private addresses to communicate. Abedin, Mills, Sullivan and Reines all also used private email addresses to conduct business, along with their government accounts.

Two other emails sent to Abedin were cited in the inspector general’s report, but also did not turn up among the emails released by Clinton. Those messages to Abedin contained warnings in January 2011 from an unidentified aide to former President Bill Clinton who said he had to shut down Hillary Clinton’s New York-based server because of suspected hacking attacks.

In response, Abedin warned Mills and Sullivan not to email Clinton “anything sensitive” and said she would “explain more in person.”

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Eight automakers recall more than 12 million vehicles for Takata air bags Fri, 27 May 2016 12:44:24 +0000 DETROIT — Eight automakers are recalling more than 12 million vehicles in the U.S. to replace Takata air bag inflators that can explode with too much force.

Documents detailing recalls by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Ferrari and Mitsubishi were posted Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

They’re part of a massive expansion of Takata air bag recalls announced earlier this month. Seventeen automakers are adding 35 million-to-40 million inflators to what already was the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

In addition, the Japanese transport ministry on Friday announced 7 million additional recalls related to the Takata inflators. Those recalls cover all front air bags that do not have a chemical drying agent.

Friday’s recalls include passenger air bags mainly in older models in areas along the Gulf Coast with high heat and humidity.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates the air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn faster than designed. That can blow apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion, spewing hot shrapnel into vehicles.

The inflators are responsible for 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide. Two additional deaths are under investigation in Malaysia and may have been caused by the inflators.

The recalls are among the first to be unveiled by automakers since Takata agreed to the recall expansion, and more recalls will be announced in the coming week. The recalls are being phased in by the government due to a lack of available replacement parts. Models that are from 2011 or older in high heat and humidity areas will get first priority, followed by 2008 and older models in Southern-tier states, then 2004 and older models in the rest of the country.

Honda had the biggest recall total on Friday with more than 4.5 million inflators, while Fiat Chrysler reported 4.3 million. The Honda total even includes about 2,700 Gold Wing motorcycles with optional front air bags.

Honda says the latest recall covers only about 2.2 million additional Honda and Acura vehicles. The other 2.3 million vehicles were recalled previously for other Takata air bag problems. Honda expects the recalls to start in late summer for automobiles and in late fall for the motorcycles.

Fiat Chrysler said it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries involving its vehicles that are part of the recall.

The latest recalls cover mainly front passenger air bag inflators without the chemical drying agent. The jury is still out on whether Takata will have to recall millions more inflators with the drying agent. Takata has to prove to the government that those are safe by the end of 2019, or more recalls will start.

Since the recalled models vary by state and age, officials say that the best way to see if your car is affected is to go to or manufacturer websites and key in the vehicle identification number. That number can be found on the driver’s side of the dashboard near the windshield or on your state vehicle registration. It may take several weeks for all of the newly recalled vehicles to be entered into the databases.

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Almost two dozen athletes from London Olympics test positive for doping in reanalysis Fri, 27 May 2016 12:39:37 +0000 LONDON — Nearly two dozen athletes tested positive in reanalysis of their doping samples from the 2012 London Olympics, adding to the more than 30 already caught in retesting from the 2008 Beijing Games.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday that 23 athletes from five sports and six countries had positive findings in retests with improved techniques on 265 samples from the London Games.

The IOC did not identify the athletes, their sports or their nationalities.

“The reanalysis program is ongoing, with the possibility of more results in the coming weeks,” the IOC said .

The 23 London athletes are in addition to the 31 who tested positive in retesting from the Beijing Olympics. The IOC said Friday that another sample from Beijing has since shown “abnormal parameters,” and the case was being followed up.

Overall, up to 55 athletes from the past two Summer Olympics could be retroactively disqualified and have their results, and any medals, stripped.

The IOC stores Olympic doping samples for 10 years so they can be reanalyzed when new testing methods become available.

The current retesting program targeted athletes who could be eligible to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

“These reanalyses show, once again, our determination in the fight against doping,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “We want to keep the dopers away from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This is why we are acting swiftly now.”

Bach said he has appointed a disciplinary commission which “has the full power” to sanction athletes.

The IOC still has to retest the athletes’ “B” samples. Formal positive cases are not declared until the “B” samples confirm the original findings.

The IOC said the athletes, their national Olympic committees and their international sports federations were being informed ahead of formal disciplinary proceedings.

“All athletes found to have infringed the anti-doping rules will be banned from competing at the Olympic Games” in Rio, it said.

The IOC said the retests were carried out using “the very latest scientific analysis methods.”

The IOC retested 454 samples from Beijing. Of those original 31 positives, the Russian Olympic Committee confirmed that 14 involved Russian athletes.

Russian state TV said they included 10 medalists, among them high jumper Anna Chicherova. She won the bronze medal in Beijing and went on to take gold in London.

Match TV said 11 of the 14 athletes from Beijing were from track and field, including 4×100-meter relay gold medalist Yulia Chermoshanskaya.

Spanish hurdler Josephine Onyia has been identified in Spain as being one of the athletes whose samples from Beijing was positive.

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In Hiroshima, Obama honors ‘silent cry’ of bombing victims Fri, 27 May 2016 11:20:27 +0000 HIROSHIMA, Japan – President Barack Obama paid tribute Friday to the “silent cry” of the 140,000 victims of the atomic bomb dropped 71 years ago on Hiroshima, and called on the world to abandon “the logic of fear” that encourages the stockpiling of nuclear weapons.

Obama’s trip to Hiroshima made him the first U.S. president to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack, and he sought to walk a delicate line between honoring the dead, pushing his as-yet unrealized anti-nuclear vision and avoiding any sense of apology for an act many Americans see as a justified end to a brutal war that Japan started with a sneak attack at Pearl Harbor.

“Death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Obama said, after laying a wreath, closing his eyes and briefly bowing his head before an arched stone monument in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park that honors those killed on Aug. 6, 1945. “The flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.”

In a carefully choreographed display, Obama offered a somber reflection on the horrors of war and the danger of technology that gives humans the “capacity for unmatched destruction.”

With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe standing by his side and an iconic bombed-out domed building looming behind him, Obama urged the world to do better.

“We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell,” Obama said. “We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry.”

A second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki three days after Hiroshima, killed 70,000 more. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, ending a war that killed millions.

Obama hoped Hiroshima would someday be remembered not as the dawn of the atomic age but as the beginning of a “moral awakening.” He renewed his call for a world less threatened by danger of nuclear war. He received a Nobel Peace Prize early on in his presidency for his anti-nuclear agenda but has since seen uneven progress.

“Among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them,” Obama said.

Abe, in his speech, called Obama’s visit courageous and long-awaited. He said it would help the suffering of survivors and he echoed the anti-nuclear sentiments.

“At any place in world, this tragedy must not be repeated again,” Abe said.

Critics believe Obama’s mere presence in Hiroshima would be viewed as an apology for what they see as a bombing that was needed to stop a Japanese war machine that had brutalized Asia and killed many Americans. But Obama’s decision also drew praise from those who see it as a long overdue gesture for two allies ready to bury a troubled past.

Obama’s remarks showed a careful awareness of the sensitivities. He included both South Koreans and American prisoners of war in recounting the death toll at Hiroshima – a nod to advocates for both groups who publicly warned the president not to forget their dead.

Obama spoke broadly of the brutality of the war that begat the bombing – saying it “grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes” – but did not assign blame.

After his remarks, he met with two survivors. Although he was out of ear shot of reporters, Obama could be seen laughing and smiling with 91-year-old Sunao Tsuboi. He embraced Shigeaki Mori, 79, in a hug.

Later, Tsuboi told reporters he was struck by how Obama held his hand and listened carefully. He told the U.S. president he will be remembered as the one who “listened to the voice of survivors like us.”

“You should come visit Hiroshima from time to time and meet lots of people. That is what is important,” Tsuboi said.

Obama’s visit, which lasted just under two hours while most Americans were sleeping, was crafted for close scrutiny in Asia, a region he’s tried to put at the center of his foreign policy legacy. Obama and Abe strode together along a tree-lined path, past an eternal flame, toward a river that flows by the domed building that many associate with Hiroshima.

They earlier went to the lobby of the peace museum to sign the guest book: “We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons,” Obama wrote, according to the White House.

The president’s call for a nuclear-free world was a long way from the optimistic rallying cry he delivered as young, newly elected president. Obama did not employ his campaign slogan – “Yes, we can” – as he did in a speech in Prague in 2009. Instead, the president spoke of diligent, incremental steps.

“We may not realize this goal in my lifetime but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe,” he said. “We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles.”

Obama touched down in Hiroshima after completing talks with world leaders at an international summit in Shima, Japan. He was accompanied by Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Hiroshima’s peace park is a poignant place, with searing images of the burnt, tattered clothing of dead children and the exposed steel beams on the iconic A-bomb dome. The skeletal remains of the exhibition hall have become an international symbol of peace and a place for prayer.

Han Jeong-soon, the 58-year-old daughter of a Korean survivor, was also at the park Friday.

“The suffering, such as illness, gets carried on over the generations – that is what I want President Obama to know,” she said. “I want him to understand our sufferings.”

]]> 4, 27 May 2016 10:42:20 +0000
Summer heat, cool ocean air and even showers for this Memorial Day weekend Fri, 27 May 2016 10:41:46 +0000 Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer for many and the first weekend you might be traveling to the beach, lake, mountains since last year.  This weekend the weather is all about location.  The differences in temperatures from the Maine coastline down to Cape Cod will be nearly as dramatic as from the Maine coast to the mountains.    The general theme of the weekend is warm to hot at the start, but turning cooler, especially along the coastline on Sunday and Monday.

Showers are in the forecast and your smart-phone might lead you to believe it’s going to rain more than it actually will.  As a matter of fact, if you missed this morning’s showers, you likely will remain dry until Monday.

A tropical weather system currently near Bermuda may bring some beneficial rain Monday.  While no one wants rain on a holiday, the region is very dry and this rain would help a lot.

Tropical Outlook This Weekend

As always forecasts are subject to change.  The day most vulnerable to a forecast shift is Monday.  I’ll be updating on Twitter @growingwisdom throughout the holiday weekend.

If watching a parade…

The Red Sox are not in Boston this weekend, but there are a lot of parades on Memorial Day.  There could tropical downpours, especially over southern and coastal areas during the time these are taking place on Monday. Bring your umbrella and check to be sure the parade you are headed to hasn’t been postponed.

Projected Highs Saturday

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

The one day where heat will really be an issue is Saturday.  With temperatures approaching 90 over interior York and Cumberland counties Saturday afternoon, you’ll want to get the strenuous workouts over by the middle of the morning.  The sun is up around 5 a.m., so if you can force yourself to take that run early, you can take a nap when it’s hot later on.  Sunday and Monday will be much cooler, and along the coast  it will be particularly cool Sunday.

Projected Highs Sunday

If you’re going beaching and boating…

Saturday is the one day where even much of the coast will be warm.  On Sunday and Monday, marine air will bring a chill, especially east of Portland.  Highs Sunday could remain in the 50s in many coastal towns.

Maine coast to the North shore of Boston: Tides are high at about 4 a.m and a 4 p.m this weekend shifting toward 6 o’clock in the morning and evening late in the weekend.  Boaters need to be aware of a southerly flow of air Saturday shifting the east on Sunday.

Seas will mainly be 2-4 feet, but always verify the latest forecast before heading out.

If you’re playing soccer, softball, baseball, or golf…

Saturday’s forecast: Humidity hasn’t been much of a factor yet this spring, but you’ll feel it Saturday.  The fields should be quite dry, even early, unless your town happens to see a quick shower.

Sunday and Memorial Day outlook:  Cool and dry on Sunday with that chance of heavier showers Monday.

Project Highs Memorial Day

If you’re gardening…

This is the weekend it’s safe to plant anything you desire.  Remember the sun is very strong.  The best time to plant is after 4 p.m. giving your plants the cooler evening, overnight and following morning to acclimate. Planting in the middle of the day can actually kill tender seedlings. Some much needed rain may occur Monday, but water newly planted seedlings anyway.

If you’re running errands…

Park the car in the shade this weekend and leave the windows open just a bit.  The heat on Saturday means the interior of vehicles left in the sunshine can reach well over 100 degrees!   Use the middle of the day, when it’s warmest to do your errands and spend the morning and the late afternoon and evening enjoying the weather.


]]> 1, 27 May 2016 08:17:21 +0000
Beacon from EgyptAir flight detected, official says Fri, 27 May 2016 09:56:32 +0000 CAIRO — A French vessel that joined the search for the EgyptAir plane which crashed last week killing all 66 people on board arrived Friday in the crash area, as Egyptian officials said search teams in the Mediterranean have picked up a beacon believed to be from the doomed aircraft.

According to Egyptian security officials, the French ship is carrying equipment that can find flight data and cockpit voice recorders — the so-called “black boxes.” French officials could not be immediately reached to confirm the ship’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, the chief investigator in Egypt said search teams in the Mediterranean have picked up a beacon believed to be from the EgyptAir Flight 804. Locating a beacon has narrowed the search to a 5 kilometer (3 mile) radius, said Ayman al-Moqadem, stressing that this doesn’t mean the black boxes have been found, which he said requires highly sophisticated technology.

The signal that was picked up came from one of the devices on the plane transmitting its location, said al-Moqadem, who spoke to reporters on Thursday.

Eight days after the plane crashed off Egypt’s northern coast on a Paris to Cairo flight, the cause of the tragedy still has not been determined. Ships and planes from Egypt, Greece, France, the United States and other nations have been searching the Mediterranean north of the Egyptian port of Alexandria for the jet’s voice and flight data recorders, as well as more bodies and parts of the aircraft.

Small pieces of the wreckage and human remains have already been recovered while the bulk of the plane and the bodies of the passengers are believed to be deep under the sea. A Cairo forensic team has received the human remains and is carrying DNA tests to identify the victims.

Egypt’s civil aviation minister Sherif Fathi has said he believes terrorism is a more likely explanation than equipment failure or some other catastrophic event. But no hard evidence has emerged on the cause, and no militant group has claimed to have downed the jet. Earlier, leaked flight data indicated a sensor detected smoke in a lavatory and a fault in two of the plane’s cockpit windows in the final moments of the flight.

The French air accident investigation agency, the BEA, said in a statement that the Laplace ship left Thursday from Corsica for the zone of the crash, with two BEA investigators aboard. The Laplace is equipped with three detectors made by the Alseamar company designed to detect and localize signals from the flight recorders, believed about 3,000 meters (3,280 yards) underwater.

France may also send an unmanned submarine and deep-sea retrieval equipment, the statement said. The BEA is involved in the search because the crashed plane was an Airbus, manufactured in France.

Because of the difficulties in finding the black boxes, Egypt has contracted two foreign companies to help locate the flight data recorders of the plane.

One of the companies is Alseamar, which has equipment aboard the French vessel. Egyptian official have said the second company is called Deep Ocean Search. Also, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said earlier that a submarine would join the search for the plane’s data recorders.

However, al-Moqadem told reporters that the submarine is not equipped to detect signals from the black boxes.

All Egyptian officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 08:04:49 +0000
Chronicler of war stories from Boothbay-area veterans to release books, host party Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For five years, every time Ross Maddocks saw Sarah Sherman McGrail coming he’d turn around and head the other way.

Maddocks knew that McGrail was on a mission to interview as many Korean and Vietnam war veterans from Boothbay Harbor and surrounding towns as she could, and he did not want to talk. He didn’t want to relive his days on a river patrol boat in Vietnam more than 40 years ago, when “one minute you’re talking to a guy and the next minute he’s lost an arm.”

But after dodging her on street corners or at the post office for so long, Maddocks finally changed his mind. He found McGrail to be sincere, straightforward and persistent. Very persistent.

“She told me she didn’t want (to write about) what we see on TV. She wanted to write what actually happened, what we did over there,” said Maddocks, 77, of Boothbay Harbor. “I was convinced what she was doing would not glorify war. She knows we’re all hurting, she’s sensitive to that.”

Maddocks opened up to McGrail and told his story for her new two-volume work, “Looking Back: A History of Boothbay Region’s Veterans During the Korean and Vietnam Wars.” McGrail, 46, spent eight years gathering 228 stories told by veterans from Southport, Boothbay Harbor and Boothbay. She began her work documenting the stories of local veterans more than 20 years ago, and previously had published two books about the region’s World War II veterans. Counting family and friends of veterans, she estimates she’s done more than 3,000 interviews. Her latest books, which are self-published, are due to arrive in a few Midcoast-area stores soon. Orders are also being taken online.

McGrail now wants to thank the veterans who found the time and strength to relive wartime experiences. She’s planning a “Welcome Home” party for the veterans she’s written about, on Saturday – over Memorial Day weekend – at Southport Town Hall. She’ll be decorating the gymnasium-sized main hall as if it’s for a USO dance, and displaying pictures and other memorabilia from the veterans. McGrail has invited more than 500 people personally. But she says anyone is welcome.


Ross Maddocks didn’t want to relive his days on a river patrol boat in Vietnam, but changed his mind and spoke with Sarah Sherman McGrail. He's glad he did.

Ross Maddocks didn’t want to relive his days on a river patrol boat in Vietnam, but changed his mind and spoke with Sarah Sherman McGrail. He’s glad he did.

Veterans say it’s McGrail who deserves the thanks, for preserving such personal pieces of history for three small coastal Maine towns and for letting veterans know someone cares about their stories.

“I know it took her a good five years to catch me, so I can’t imagine how long it took her to get all the others,” said Maddocks. “Hats off to Sarah. After all the stories she’s heard, I’m surprised she’s not white-haired from it. She’s a good girl for doing it.”

Brian Rego of East Boothbay, 64, also was hesitant to talk about his time in Vietnam, so he really appreciated not only the time McGrail has put in, but her delicate and comforting approach.

“It really wasn’t like interviewing. It was more about getting you to say stuff on your own,” said Rego, who served on a helicopter crew in Vietnam as a teenager. “The first time she came to talk to me she was settin’ on the steps of my workshop, wearing sandals. By the time she left, her feet were sunburnt.”

McGrail is a seventh-generation resident of Southport Island and works as a legal advocate for New Hope For Women, a domestic violence agency that serves the midcoast area. Her first thoughts about what veterans had gone through began when she was growing up, as she realized that she had not heard her father, Maurice Sherman, say much about his service in North Africa and Italy during World War II.

Brian Rego Courtesy photo

Brian Rego, who served on a helicopter crew in Vietnam as a teenager, contributed his story, then helped McGrail by copy reading her books. Courtesy photo

“We knew he was in the Army, and we all twirled our spaghetti with a spoon because he learned to do that in Rome, but he really didn’t talk much about it,” McGrail said. “You look at his medals, four battle stars, and that means he was in four major campaigns. So it just hit me that I should write it all down. After he finally told me his story I began to think, what if nobody has written these stories down?”

She was thinking of her neighbors, the families she knew.

McGrail started her research with a list of veterans’ names on a wall in the Southport Memorial Library. Soon, people all over the area were helping her find veterans – men and women – to talk to. Some she sought out wouldn’t talk at all, some a little, some a lot. McGrail wrote 228 stories in her “Looking Back” books, but lists the names of more than 430 veterans from the three towns who served in the military during the years of, and between, the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Layout 1

Although he didn’t want to talk at first and avoided her for years, Maddocks was one of the veterans who shared a lot of what he saw and did in the military. The 29 pages devoted to his story feature pictures from Maddocks’ time in the Navy in Vietnam and very specific details of his service. There’s a snapshot of the coxswain’s flat, the area where Maddocks stood when driving a river patrol boat in Vietnam, for instance. Other photos show Vietnamese villages and villagers, Maddocks with orphans near the Cambodian border, and Maddocks’ bent rifle, damaged during a battle. There’s a picture of Maddocks, standing at attention, to receive a medal from Vietnamese officials.

Maddocks joined the Navy when he was 17, in 1956, and served for more than 30 years. He said he hopes that sharing his story will help illustrate to younger people “why we don’t want to go to war” as a nation.

While being interviewed for this story, Maddocks mentioned that one time he was injured while on patrol. He said a flak jacket saved his life, and it was easier for him to list the parts of his body that weren’t riddled with shrapnel than the areas where he was hit.

“Anyone who serves in a war is never completely the same,” he said. “You have memories that will always bother you, that you’ll never forget.”


Layout 1McGrail hopes that people in other towns hear about her books and decide to chronicle veterans’ stories too. She’s more than willing to share her methods, including the questionnaires she sent to people and how to check various government service records.

“It is the least we owe our veterans after the sacrifices they have made for all of us,” McGrail said.

Rego not only contributed his story to McGrail’s effort, but also helped her by copy reading her books. He found himself getting “caught up” in the stories, from people he’s known all his life, recalling experiences they seldom shared.

Rego is especially glad that McGrail has recorded the stories of so many Vietnam veterans, since they often came home to a hostile reception from the public.

“There was a lot of name-calling when we came back,” he said. “But all these stories are part of history.”

And thanks to McGrail, in these three small Maine towns, they won’t soon be forgotten.

]]> 1, 27 May 2016 08:12:29 +0000
Maine portion of Appalachian Trail dangerous, remote and heavily wooded, experts say Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Remote, rugged and heavily wooded, the terrain surrounding Maine’s portion of the Appalachian Trail likely contributed to hiker Geraldine Largay’s death in two ways.

It probably was a factor when Largay, who reportedly had a poor sense of direction, became lost after stepping off a section of the trail in northern Franklin County for a bathroom break on July 22, 2013. Then it hampered searchers during a rescue effort that failed to find her, those familiar with the trail say.

She died after weeks in the wilderness, leaving behind a journal and a cellphone that provided some clues to her plight when her remains were found in October 2015. Entries from the journal and a transcript of text messages she tried to send from her cellphone were part of the 1,579-page case file released Wednesday by the Maine Warden Service.

The 66-year-old Largay was an experienced hiker from Brentwood, Tennessee, who planned to through-hike the trail. While questions remain about how she lost her way after leaving the trail for what was likely a relatively short distance, those familiar with the unforgiving nature of the swath of Maine land that the trail cuts through aren’t surprised.

“Maine has some of the most rugged terrain on the Appalachian Trail,” said Doug Dolan of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, a group of volunteers who maintain portions of the trail. “When you get off the trail, there’s very dense vegetation. You can’t see more than 6 feet in front of you.”


Dolan said the trail itself is 4 feet wide, well-maintained and well-marked, but the markings are designed for hikers who stay on the trail.

“If you get off the trail, it can be difficult to find your way back to civilization,” Dolan said. “You really have to pay attention.”

Dolan advises hikers who go off the trail to mark their path. That’s key, he said, both to help hikers find their way back, and to allow someone searching for them to see where they left the trail.

He said if Largay had built a campfire, the smoke would have helped wardens find her. Setting up a tent in a spot with the least amount of tree canopy also could have helped, because wardens search by air for signs of lost hikers.

“It’s really difficult for them to do the searches on foot, because of how dense” the woods are, Dolan said.

The warden service conducted an intense seven-day search immediately after Largay was reported missing by her husband, on July 24, 2013, and periodically searched for her over the next 26 months. Her husband, George Largay, was meeting her at designated checkpoints, and called authorities when she failed to show up at a checkpoint.

Geraldine Largay kept a journal that was made public Wednesday, indicating that she set up a tent in a heavily wooded area about 2 miles from the trail. She survived for at least 26 days before dying from a lack of food and water and from environmental exposure, the warden service said in its report on the search for Largay and the eventual recovery of her body. She was found in her sleeping bag inside a zipped tent.

She had tried to text her husband, but the texts did not go through because of poor cellphone service in northern Maine.

Largay was hiking alone – another risk factor – after a friend she was hiking with left the trail because of a family emergency. The friend, Janet Lee, also told the warden service that Largay didn’t know how to use a compass.


Lee also told the warden service that Largay had a poor sense of direction, and would become easily flustered when she made a mistake. The report also said she was scared of the dark and of being alone.

She was also a slow hiker, giving herself the nickname “Inchworm.”

Hiking the Appalachian Trail has become more popular in recent years, spurred by publicity from best-selling books and a 2015 Robert Redford movie based on the book “A Walk in the Woods,” by Bill Bryson.

The number of people who have successfully completed the entire trail from Georgia to Maine has increased steadily, from 526 in 2007 to 928 in 2014, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a national group that advocates for the trail.

“There’s a lot more people interested in doing the Appalachian Trail,” said Sandy Bell, co-owner of the North Woods Trading Post in Millinocket, which bills itself as “the last stop for gas, gear and supplies before Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin.” Katahdin is the northern end of the 2,184-mile trail that begins on Springer Mountain in Georgia.

“There are people who are very well-equipped for the hike, and a whole group that’s not,” Bell said. “If they come in wearing flip-flops and say they’re going to hike the Appalachian Trail, we have a talk with them.”

Bell said the store sees a lot of people who are trying to hike the trail from north to south, but people who aren’t well-prepared often will give up, their enthusiasm dampened after the grueling ascent of Mount Katahdin and trying to hike through the rugged woods in northern Maine.

“Maine is probably the toughest part of the whole Appalachian Trail, and if you’re not prepared, that’s where problems set in,” Bell said.


An average of 28 Appalachian Trail hikers get lost in Maine each year, the warden service said. But they’re almost always quickly found: 95 percent of the time, searchers locate them in 12 hours, and 98 percent of lost hikers are found within 24 hours.

Bell said there are many books on how to prepare for the trail, including what gear to bring, how to use the U.S. Postal Service to re-supply, and other tips to complete the 2,184 miles of trail. Hiking the entire length can take five to six months.

Dolan said southern parts of the trail are wider, with less vegetation and many more people hiking, so getting lost is less likely. But most of the hikers who begin the trek have dropped out before reaching Maine.

About 2,500 people began an attempted through-hike at the trailhead in Springer Mountain in 2014, but only 653 accomplished the feat, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said. Others complete the full trail by going north to south, or by completing it in sections.


]]> 1, 27 May 2016 08:10:51 +0000
National spelling bee ends in tie for third straight time Fri, 27 May 2016 05:08:44 +0000 After a heartstopping epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and 13-year-old New Yorker tied for the championship trophy on Thursday night in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third time in a row the contest deadlocked between two victors.

Crowd favorite Nihar Saireddy Janga, a fifth-grader who charmed the fans with his slight voice and knowledge of obscure words, and Jairam Hathwar, whose brother Sriram Hathwar co-won the contest in 2014, were declared this year’s winners.

The two contestants from Maine, Syra Gutow of Castine and Javier Alicea-Santiago from Orono did not advance to the Finals. Gutow was eliminated after the third round.

The two Indian-American boys squared off against only each other for 22 rounds, and nearly didn’t tie: Nihar had the opportunity to win after his older competitor stumbled on two of his turns. But, much like a tennis match, Nihar subsquently faltered himself, making their tie seem like spelling bee destiny.

The bee was scheduled from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., but lasted about an hour longer, thanks largely to new rules that allowed for 25 rounds among the final three contestants. But it was only a group of three for one round: The other competitor, Snehaa Ganesh Kumar, 13, of California, fell out early, leaving the bee largely between Nihar and Jairam.

Nihar awed fans by dropping serious knoweldge on some of his words.

“Is this a cheese?” he asked when given one word.

When they reached the final round where one could have beaten the other, neither showed a shred of weakness. Jairam nailed “Feldenkrais,” then Nihar slammed it home with “gesellschaft.”

Once the two boys realized they tied, they embraced and celebrated. Confetti poured down onto the stage, and the crowed seemed relieved that both boys would win, and not just one.

The Bee’s director, Paige Kimble, said even though new rules were put in place to decrease the likelihhood of a tie, she knew all along that a deadlock was quite possible.

During the celebration, Nihar thanked his mom and said: “I’m just speechless. I can’t say anything. I’m only in fifth grade.”

Earlier in the night, the top 10 contenders mouthed words that were in English, technically. But the language was exotic, multi-syllabic, maybe something from “Game of Thrones.”

Myoclonus. Pneumatomachy. Hirundine. Comitatus.

“OK, you need to give me a word I know,” said Mitchell Robson, 14, of Massachusetts, as he approached the microphone and ESPN cameras zoomed in on his face. “Please.”

“I’ll try and work with you,” said the Bee’s longtime pronouncer, Jacques Bailly, himself a previous Bee winner.

But who was Bailly kidding? He wasn’t going to work with Mitchell. The Bee Deity threw down the gauntlet to the eighth-grader: esquisse. It means a first, usually rough, sketch, as a picture or model of a statue.

“Uh . . . esquisse?” Mitchell said.

He asked for the definition and the word’s origin. He asked to hear it in a sentence.

“Is there anything else I can, like, get out of you?” he pleaded.

The crowd laughed nervously. Was Mitchell – whose humor made him popular all week with fans – finally choking?


The crowd boomed with applause. But not even Mitchell would last much longer.

The 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee championship round of 10 was brutal. By late into the evening, the top 10 was down to the top five and still going.

The event, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor, Md., began this week with 284 contestants from around the world. By Thursday morning, it resumed with 45 finalists who were whittled down to just 10 for the evening championship, aired live on ESPN.

Less than an hour into Thursday night’s championship, Cooper Komatsu, 13, of California, who with a teammate won the 2016 North American School Scrabble Championship, was taken out. The killer word: illicium. Fans loved Cooper, who placed 11th last year. He barely got his first word right Thursday evening – myoclonus – pausing at length between letters.

After he was ousted, ESPN’s sideline reporter – yes, just like those in sports – interviewed him on the couch next to the stage, where all the vanquished spellers are offered a box of tissues and a plate of cookies.

“When I got my first word right, I didn’t know it,” he said. “I was really happy. The second word I just didn’t know. I tried my best. I didn’t get it, but I am glad to be here.”

Anytime anyone misspelled a word Thursday night, the crowd gave a standing ovation. Sometimes, like the Oscars, the kids thanked their team: parents, teachers and friends.

Mitchell’s kryptonite was “Wehrmacht,” the armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945. He spelled it V-E-R-M-A-C-H-T.

After he thanked his grandmother on stage, he told The Washington Post in a brief interview: “I knew that word in the back of my brain. I didn’t think about the beginning of the word hard enough. I could have gotten it.”

Earlier Thursday, all four Washington area students stumbled, including Tejas Muthusamy, a Richmond student who tied for seventh place last year and eighth the year before. Muthusamy’s early exit was such a stunner that he earned a standing ovation when he walked to the cookie couch. One fan asked for his autograph.

The Scripps Bee is inherently nerve-racking, but the contest organizers do all they can to pump up the pressure. Finalists sit on an elevated, neon-lit stage facing ESPN cameras swooping overhead in two directions and an ESPN GameDay-style host set in the back.

Two movie-size screens flank the stage, one showing photos of each student, the other showing live footage of them spelling their words and their parents reacting to the result. Dozens of credentialed reporters from around the world sit along five long rows of tables right behind a set of four judges.

This is not, in other words, for children with hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – fear of words.

Indian American children again appear to be dominating the Bee, making up the majority of the final 10 competitors. They’ve won the past seven years in a row.

Some students emerged as obvious crowd favorites: Two 11-year-olds, Nihar Saireddy Janga of Texas, and Jashun Paluru of Indiana, the youngest to make it that far; Sylvie Lamontagne of Colorado, who took ninth place last year and cracked up the audience when she asked Bailly, the pronouncer, for an easy word.

On Thursday night, Sylvie, another favorite, made it to the top five. Earlier in the evening, the Bee showed an interview with her back home in Colorado, where she showed off her tap-dancing and Scrabble skills.

“Words are fascinating because they can take you to a lot of places,” she said.

When it was her turn at the microphone, with more than an hour into the competition, she was among the final five.

Her word was “venetic,” the language of an ancient Italian people.

“Venetic,” she said. “V . . . can I start over?”

The crowd drew a long breath.


Bailly rendered the verdict: “That is correct.”

]]> 1, 27 May 2016 10:58:49 +0000
Longtime TV newsman Norm Karkos leaves WMTW Fri, 27 May 2016 02:10:30 +0000 Longtime TV reporter and anchor Norm Karkos is no longer working at WMTW, Channel 8, where he spent 25 years of his career.

WMTW assignment editor Tyler Cadorette, contacted Thursday night, confirmed that Karkos no longer works at the station, but said he was not authorized to discuss the issue further. WMTW President and General Manager Dave Abel was not available for comment.

Karkos did not immediately return a Facebook message Thursday night requesting comment. His name does not appear on the station’s news team web page and his official Twitter and Facebook accounts appeared to be taken offline.

Karkos was a weekend morning anchor and a weekday reporter for the station. According to his online Linkedin profile, Karkos started at the station in 1991 and was the sports director before becoming a news anchor.

Karkos is the most recent of a number of news anchors to leave WMTW, a Hearst Television affiliate, in the past several years. In 2013, longtime morning news anchor Shannon Moss was fired from the station after management told her she was not connecting with her audience. Erin Ovalle, who anchored the morning show with Moss, left in 2015 to pursue other professional goals.

]]> 12 Fri, 27 May 2016 08:13:05 +0000
Container shipments through Portland up by more than 1,300 percent since 2011 Fri, 27 May 2016 01:55:17 +0000 The Port of Portland, which lost its container business in the wake of the Great Recession, is thriving once again, with container shipments up by more than 1,300 percent since 2011.

The dramatic increase is largely attributable to Icelandic shipping company Eimskip, the port’s biggest cargo operator, which has grown its refrigerated cargo service by about 20 percent year over year since arriving in Portland in 2013. According to the Maine International Trade Center, container shipments through the port have soared from 7,400 metric tons in 2011 to 105,523 metric tons in 2015.

“We have doubled our capacity and will do it again,” Eimskip President Larus Isfeld told a crowd of 450 gathered Thursday for MITC’s annual Trade Day.

The company, which employs 1,300 people worldwide and 10 in its Portland facility, was recognized by MITC as its Foreign Direct Investor for 2016.

Isfeld said Eimskip is more than halfway to its goal of making weekly calls to Portland by 2020. When it first opened its Portland operation, Eimskip was making 26 calls a year, but it has added five more since, Isfeld said. The potential for weekly shipments will expand its customer base, which now reaches north into Canada, throughout Massachusetts and is approaching New York City, Isfeld said.

He said government improvements to the port – including a crane, a paved space to load, unload and store containers, and the installation of stations where refrigerated cargo units can be plugged in and kept cool – helped Portland compete for Eimskip’s business with ports in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The investment cost about $30 million. The community’s support and enthusiasm, however, were what finalized the deal, Isfeld said.

“The commitment to growth is something we share,” he said. “I have big plans. We have just started. We will grow together.”

Eimskip, which ships everything from Maine cranberries to Icelandic glacial water, isn’t the only reason the port is bustling. Two significant investments at the International Marine Terminal also are boosting capacity at the port.

One is the completion of a Pan Am rail spur, which now connects the port with a 1,700-mile rail network. Shipments started in February to Ayer, Massachusetts, three times a week. The other significant investment is the construction of a cold storage warehouse, which is being built by Americold and should be completed by the end of next summer.

“All of these point to what I call the ‘intermodalism’ of the terminal, and that positions us for even greater growth,” said John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority. Intermodal refers to the juncture of multiple modes of transportation.

Henshaw said two new customers have started using the port terminal because of these upgrades.

L.L. Bean is now sending shipments that previously went through ports in New York or New Jersey to Portland instead, where containers can be stacked in a container yard or loaded directly onto trucks destined for Freeport. Last month, Poland Spring began shipping bottled water from Kingfield to Waterville and then via rail into South Portland’s Rigby Yard. In January, it started shipping pallets of bottled water from its Hollis operation to the new rail line in Portland.

Growth in the port is one reason why Maine’s export numbers outpaced the national average in 2015, said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, MITC’s president. In 2015, Maine exported more than $2.7 billion worth of goods, almost doubling over the past two decades.

Maine companies sell products to more than 180 countries and territories. Trade supports about 180,000 jobs here, or about one in five Maine jobs, Bisaillon-Cary said.


]]> 5, 27 May 2016 08:12:07 +0000
John Bird, 73, active advocate in Old Orchard Beach politics, dies Fri, 27 May 2016 01:50:53 +0000 John Bird, a former town councilor in Old Orchard Beach who attended nearly every council meeting and advocated strongly for environmental and conservation issues, died unexpectedly Monday. He was 73.

Mr. Bird served on numerous town committees including the conservation commission and charter commission. He also co-founded the Ocean Park Conservation Society and was still director when he died.

“He was a real public advocate for the citizens of Old Orchard Beach,” said V. Louise Reid, assistant town manager. “He was an environmental expert and dedicated to environmental issues. He was a personal friend to many.”

Mr. Bird was a resident of Ocean Park and cared deeply about the community.

He became active in town politics in the early 1970s. He served two terms on the Old Orchard Beach Town Council and was appointed vice chairman in 1973 and chairman in 1975.

He served stints on the town’s license ordinance revision committee and the town’s Republican Committee. In 2009, Mr. Bird joined the town’s charter commission, and he served as vice chairman of its conservation commission from 2010-2011.

Mr. Bird attended nearly every council meeting and workshop for several years. He was a tall gentleman with the long white beard who spoke softly and eloquently about different agenda items. If he had a question, he was quick to ask the council. When he stood up to speak, people listened.

“As a citizen I always felt that he had my best interests at heart,” Reid said. “He will definitely be missed.”

Another hallmark of Bird’s life was serving as director of the Ocean Park Conservation Society. He co-founded the organization in 1971.

Jerry Gosselin, executive director of the Ocean Park Association, remembered Bird as a passionate advocate for the environment who worked to protect the waterways around Ocean Park, such as Goosefare Brook.

“John was really devoted to the protection and care of the environment,” Gosselin said. “It’s like he took ownership of these waterways by monitoring pollution levels. We are all beneficiaries of his passion for his work.”

Mr. Bird was also a devoted husband, father and grandfather. Both of his daughters spoke Thursday about his love for his family and community.

His daughter Kaleo Bird of Philadelphia said her father was fun, silly and unconventional. She chuckled Thursday while recalling stories of her past. She remembered the years he decorated a music stand with Christmas lights and called it a tree. Another time, Bird brought his daughter a dozen or so varieties of cheese because she didn’t specify how many he should bring. He also collected bowling balls and gave them to her.

“He was just silly,” she said.

Daughter Rebecca Bird of Tacoma, Washington, said her father was supportive, loving and made sure they knew how much he loved them.

Mr. Bird died two days after his birthday. On May 20, he had surgery on his neck and back but was discharged the next day and feeling well. His family said he died of a possible pulmonary embolism. He had a history of blood clots.

The Town Council will hold its next meeting Tuesday. Reid said the council chairman will likely address Bird’s passing.


]]> 0, 26 May 2016 21:58:00 +0000
Testimony: Clinton was offered in-house email computer Fri, 27 May 2016 01:45:47 +0000 WASHINGTON — State Department officials took pains to accommodate Hillary Clinton’s email practices as secretary, according to newly released testimony by a career agency official.

Clinton was offered a “stand-alone” computer near her office that would let her access the Internet without entering a password or logging into the department’s network as other employees are required to do, the official said.

The official, Lewis A. Lukens, executive director of Clinton’s executive secretariat from 2008 to 2011, said he was told the proposal was declined because Clinton was “not adept or not used to checking her emails on a desktop.” However, Lukens said, Clinton was “very comfortable” using a BlackBerry – even though she would have to leave her office to use the device due to security protocols.

Lukens’ testimony on May 18 came in the first of six depositions scheduled until late June of current and former State Department and top Clinton aides in a civil lawsuit probing whether Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while secretary from 2009 to 2013 thwarted federal open-records laws.

The Lukens transcript was released Thursday, one day after State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick issued a highly critical, 83-page report on Clinton’s email practices. The report concluded that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for the server arrangement and that if she had, it would not have been granted because of security risks.

Clinton allies had braced for the IG report and findings from a pending FBI investigation into whether the email setup mishandled classified information or violated other federal laws.

However, the ongoing depositions appear likely to keep a spotlight on the matter that Clinton has tried to put to rest in her presidential campaign.

On Friday, Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, is to give sworn testimony in the lawsuit brought by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch. The lawsuit concerns the group’s 2013 public records request for information about the employment arrangement of Mills’ deputy, Huma Abedin.

In a statement Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said that the IG report “makes clear that Secretary Clinton and a number of other former Department officials have not been truthful with the American people” and failed to turn over certain emails from personal email accounts.

In his testimony, Lukens, a Foreign Service officer for 27 years who oversaw 110 employees providing administrative support to the secretary, said he never recalled speaking about Clinton’s email address or use of a personal BlackBerry with a direct subordinate, John Bentel, in charge of the secretariat’s electronic communications.

Lukens said that Mills did not ask for Clinton to have a computer in her office, and that he did not think a State email account was set up for Clinton because she did not ask for one.

“At that point, as far as I knew, there was no requirement for her to be connected to our system.”

]]> 15, 26 May 2016 21:45:47 +0000
Hiker who died on Appalachian Trail didn’t know how to use compass Fri, 27 May 2016 01:40:00 +0000 Buried among the mountain of information amassed during one of Maine’s most extensive missing person searches is this detail: Appalachian Trail through-hiker Geraldine Largay did not know how to use a compass.

Largay’s remains were found more than two years after she disappeared July 22, 2013, on a section of the trail in Franklin County. Until the Maine Warden Service released its 1,500-page report Wednesday, much of what had happened to her remained a mystery.

Of all the indications in the report that Largay, 66, wasn’t prepared for the nearly 1,000-mile hike that eventually claimed her life, the fact that she was trekking through a remote wilderness but didn’t know how to use a compass is among the most startling.

“That would be a recipe for disaster,” Roger Guay, a retired game warden, said Thursday night.

A compass was found with her belongings at the campsite she’d fashioned in the woods while she was lost, but a reference on a missing person report in the case file, and a summary from an interview with Largay’s friend and hiking companion Jane Lee, said Largay didn’t know how to use the compass.

Lee told an investigator “(Largay) did not know how to use a compass. She didn’t know if Geraldine even had a compass,” the report said.

An inventory list in a missing person report in the case file said Largay left her SPOT GPS device behind in a motel and “has compass but does not or won’t use it.”

Guay said a compass is an essential tool for anyone out in the woods. “You can get caught in heavy fog and you can get off the trail,” he said. “You don’t venture into the wilderness without a compass. You’ve got to have that knowledge.”


Guay was involved in many searches during his 25 years with the warden service, but said he is not qualified to speak about specifics of Largay’s case. However, there is one thing he is sure of: “In this corner of the world, it is a lot easier to get off track.”

An excerpt from a missing person report in the Maine Warden Service case file on Geraldine Largay shows she did not use a compass.

An excerpt from a missing person report in the Maine Warden Service case file on Geraldine Largay shows she did not use a compass.

The items in the Largay case file include excerpts from a journal that Largay kept during her last weeks alive in the rugged woods of Franklin County, and paint a grim picture of the worst scenario for a through-hiker of the 2,184-mile trail that begins on Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends on Mount Katahdin in Maine. Largay, of Brentwood, Tennessee, who went by the trail name “Inchworm,” was hiking the second half, and had started in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

She had covered about 950 miles and had about 200 to go. But she was in what’s considered the most treacherous part of the trail. People familiar with hiking and search and rescue along Maine’s section of the Appalachian Trail say it takes only a few missteps for a hiker to get lost.

Things that Largay did, such as hike alone, leave her GPS locator in a motel, stay in one place after she got lost, and not use her compass, all decreased the likelihood that she would be found, despite what has been described by wardens as the most extensive search of its kind in the state’s history.

Largay was reported missing on July 24, 2013, after she didn’t appear at a designated meeting place with her husband, George Largay, the previous day where the trail crosses Route 27 in Wyman Township.

A memorial for Geraldine Largay was assembled at her final location, in the rugged woods of Franklin County.

A memorial for Geraldine Largay was assembled at her final location, in the rugged woods of Franklin County. Photo from Maine Warden Service report

In October 2015, her remains were found in her sleeping bag zipped inside of her tent at a campsite she had set up about 2 miles from the trail on U.S. Navy land in Redington Township. She died from a lack of food and water, according to the medical examiner’s report, released in January.

Largay’s journal showed she was alive on Aug. 6, 2013, and possibly later. The warden service had scaled back its extensive search two days earlier, though it continued searches with trained dog teams and thorough grid searches. A private contractor working for the Navy stumbled across her campsite on Oct. 11, 2015.

Guay believes the warden service did all it could to find her.

“It’s tough when you have cleared all the logical areas,” Guay said. “It’s a tough call to make; no one likes to make it. You kind of come to a point, statistically, where you’re spinning your wheels.”


Every year, about 28 Appalachian Trail hikers get lost in Maine, Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service said shortly after Largay was reported missing.

Searchers find lost hikers within 12 hours 95 percent of the time, and within 24 hours in 98 percent of the cases.

The release Wednesday of the warden service report answered questions about what had happened to Largay, and highlighted how ill-prepared she was for the grueling hike.

She was hiking the Maine stretch of the trail alone, after Lee, her friend and trailmate, had to leave because of a family emergency. Largay was relying on her Samsung cellphone to keep in touch with her husband, who met her every few days with supplies. After she got lost, she tried texting her husband, but because there was no cellphone service, he never got the messages.

Warden Roger Guay points out a dangerous area along the hiking trail at Gulf Hagas to fellow Warden Pat Dorian in 1995. Guay, who retired after 25 years with the Maine Warden Service, has been involved in more searches for missing people than he can count. He said hikers have to be prepared, to stay alive and to help searchers find them.

Warden Roger Guay points out a dangerous area along the hiking trail at Gulf Hagas to fellow Warden Pat Dorian in 1995. Guay, who retired after 25 years with the Maine Warden Service, has been involved in more searches for missing people than he can count. He said hikers have to be prepared, to stay alive and to help searchers find them. Press Herald file photo/John Ewing

“Over my career, I would usually get a call at least once a summer from a family member who had been in cell contact with their hiker and had lost contact with them,” Guay said. “I would ask, ‘Where did you lose contact?’ and it would be, ‘Oh, the Maine border.”

Shane Vorous, who operates the Stratton Motel with his wife, Stacey, said Thursday that they try to tell hikers where they are likely to get cellphone service and where known dead zones are along the Appalachian Trail.

“As far as cellphone coverage, we do know a lot of where the coverage is and where it isn’t. And when we have people stay here, we try to help them understand where it works and where it doesn’t,” Vorous said.

Both Vorous and Guay were adamant that every hiker should carry an emergency locater beacon, which, when activated, transmits a hiker’s location using satellites, allowing rescuers to find them. Largay apparently didn’t have one.

“The best thing you can do is have an ELB,” Guay said. “It’s pretty cheap insurance when you are hiking big sections of the trail like that.”

Lee, who hiked the trail with Largay until they reached Maine, told investigators that Largay had become lost or had fallen behind several times, and Lee had to backtrack to find her.

The report also said that Largay had a poor sense of direction, got flustered easily, and was scared of the dark and of being alone.

All of those issues are heightened when hiking alone.

“What you would have happen (if you hiked with someone), is the calming effect that you’re not alone. If you’ve ever been lost, it adds to panic very easily,” Guay said.

He said that when someone is hiking alone and gets lost, they often switch their focus solely to survival and not enough on helping themselves be found, as Largay apparently did when she set up her camp and waited for a rescue.

Guay said when people get lost, they should find an open area and try to “catch an eye” from the air by making a fire or spell the word “help” with fir boughs. The report documented attempts that Largay made to start a fire at her campsite.

“All of those things are critical. Unfortunately, if you’re not moving and you’re not trying to help yourself be found, (rescuers) would have to come right onto you to find you,” Guay said.

Members of the recovery team that brought Geraldine Largay's remains and effects out of the remote woods walk past a body of water near the mountains of Franklin County. Doug Dolan of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club says, "Maine has some of the most rugged terrain on the Appalachian Trail."

Members of the recovery team that brought Geraldine Largay’s remains and effects out of the remote woods walk past a body of water near the mountains of Franklin County. Doug Dolan of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club says, “Maine has some of the most rugged terrain on the Appalachian Trail.”


Largay’s final journal entry was for Aug. 18, though the warden service said it isn’t sure if the date is accurate.

During the extensive search after Largay’s disappearance, searchers with dogs came close to her campsite, once coming within about 100 yards of where her remains were found.

Adam, who led the warden service search effort, said shortly after Largay disappeared that the search was “mystifying.”

“We’ve done a lot of tactics that would normally produce results by now,” he said on July 28, 2013. “Why, all of a sudden, did she disappear?”

At the time of her disappearance, it was believed, because of a tip that turned out to be false, that she had made it to the Spaulding lean-to – a 9-mile hike from the Poplar Ridge lean-to that she had left around 7 a.m. on July 22. Extensive grid searches in the weeks immediately after she disappeared were to the west of where she was found, warden service maps showed.

Guay said wardens try to never let it enter their heads that they might not find someone, because that is the most difficult reality they have to face.

“It’s hard to tell a family we’ve done all we can do for now until a new lead shows up,” he said. “It’s the hardest thing to deal with as a game warden.”


]]> 32, 27 May 2016 12:15:21 +0000
Obama to make history at Hiroshima Fri, 27 May 2016 01:31:54 +0000 HIROSHIMA, Japan — Convinced that the time for this moment is right at last, President Obama on Friday will become the first American president to confront the historic and haunted ground of Hiroshima.

Here, at this place of so much suffering, where U.S. forces dropped the atomic bomb that gave birth to the nuclear age, Obama will pay tribute to the 140,000 people who died from the attack seven decades ago.

He will not apologize. He will not second-guess President Harry Truman’s decision to unleash the awful power of nuclear weapons. He will not dissect Japanese aggression in World War II.

Rather, Obama aimed to offer a simple reflection, acknowledging the devastating toll of war and coupling it with a message that the world can – and must – do better.

He will look back, placing a wreath at the centopath, an arched monument in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park honoring those killed by the bomb dropped on Aug. 6, 1945. A second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki three days later, killed 70,000 more.

Obama will also look forward.

Hiroshima is much more than “a reminder of the terrible toll in World War II and the death of innocents across the continents,” Obama said Thursday.

It is a place, he said, “to remind ourselves that the job’s not done in reducing conflict, building institutions of peace and reducing the prospect of nuclear war in the future.”

Those who come to ground zero at Hiroshima speak of its emotional impact, of the searing imagery of the exposed steel beams on the iconic A-bomb dome.

The skeletal remains of the exhibition hall have become an international symbol of peace and a place for prayer.

The president will be accompanied on his visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – a demonstration of the friendship that exists between the only nation ever to use an atomic bomb and the only nation ever to have suffered from one.

It is a moment 70 years in the making. Other American presidents considered coming, but the politics were still too sensitive, the emotions too raw.

Even now, when polls find 70 percent of the Japanese support Obama’s decision to come to Hiroshima, his choreographed visit will be parsed by people with many agendas.

There are political foes at home ready to seize on any hint of an unwelcome expression of regret.

There are Koreans who want to hear the president acknowledge the estimated 20,000-40,000 of their citizens who were among the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There are blast survivors who want Obama to listen to their stories, to see their scars – physical and otherwise.

There are activists looking for a pledge of new, concrete steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

There are American former POWs who want the president to fault Japan for starting the war in the Pacific.

Obama will try to navigate those shoals by saying less, not more.

The dropping of the bomb, he said Thursday, “was an inflection point in modern history. It is something that all of us have had to deal with in one way or another.”

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 21:31:54 +0000
Ninety-minute tornado rare, even in Kansas Thu, 26 May 2016 23:46:14 +0000 The Associated Press

A tornado that raked northern Kansas for 90 minutes was impressive both for its classic “wedge” shape and its sheer endurance – staying on the ground about 10 times longer than the typical twister.

The Storm Prediction Center said most tornadoes last less than 10 minutes and stay on the ground for about 31/2 miles. Wednesday’s storm covered 26 miles from near Niles and southeast of Chapman, but was moving so slowly it lasted an hour and a half and was so isolated that other storms never interrupted its air flow.

The SPC said the legendary, long-lived tornadoes talked about from a century ago were most likely a series of storms along one general path.

The twister that hit Kansas tracked eastward at an average speed of 17.3 mph. The slow forward motion gave forecasters plenty of time to warn people living in the area to either get out of the storm’s way or take shelter.

The National Weather Service at Topeka warned Chapman’s 1,400 residents at 8:06 p.m. Wednesday that the storm was 4 miles west. At the storm’s pace, that gave people 15 minutes to prepare. There have been no reports of injuries or deaths.

Tornadoes are usually part of weather systems that form multiple storms – one with hail here, high winds there. Cold air flowing out of those other storms often chokes off the balance a storm needs to keep a tornado going, said Erik Rasmussen, a research scientist at the University of Oklahoma and the project director for Vortex Southeast.

“The things that end up destroying a tornado didn’t happen,” Rasmussen said. “It was really just bad luck.” The next-nearest storm capable of influencing the Chapman twister was south of Wichita, Kansas, 120 miles to the south.

Tornadoes are the most efficient way to move air from one part of the atmosphere to another. Typically in the U.S., tornadoes form when moist, warm air from the Gulf moves northward on air currents to meet drier, cooler air moving in from the Pacific or Canada.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 19:46:14 +0000
FDA approves implant to help addicts kick opioids habit Thu, 26 May 2016 23:42:39 +0000 WASHINGTON — Federal health officials on Thursday approved an innovative new option for Americans struggling with addiction to heroin and painkillers: a drug-oozing implant that curbs craving and withdrawal symptoms for six months at a time.

The first-of-a-kind device, Probuphine, arrives as communities across the U.S. grapple with a wave of addiction tied to opioids, highly-addictive drugs that include legal pain medications like OxyContin and illegal narcotics like heroin. Roughly 2.5 million Americans suffer from addiction disorders related to the drugs, according to federal estimates.

The implant from Braeburn Pharmaceuticals is essentially a new, long-term delivery system for an established drug, buprenorphine, which has long been used to treat opioid addiction. But its implantable format could help patients avoid dangerous relapses that can occur if they miss a medication dose.

The matchstick-size implant slowly releases a low dose of buprenorphine over six months. Previously the drug was only available as a pill or film that dissolves under the tongue. It is considered a safer, more palatable alternative to methadone, the decades-old standard for controlling opioid addiction.

Probuphine is intended for patients who have already been stabilized on low-to-medium doses of buprenorphine for at least a half year. Braeburn estimates that one fourth, or 325,000, of the 1.3 million patients currently taking buprenorphine meet that criterion.

The FDA previously rejected Probuphine in 2012, judging the drug’s dose was too low to reliably help the broad range of opioid-addicted patients. Braeburn and partner Titan Pharmaceuticals resubmitted the product with additional data and it received a positive endorsement from federal advisers earlier this year.

]]> 4 Thu, 26 May 2016 19:42:39 +0000
Officials warn: Don’t take selfies with seals! Thu, 26 May 2016 23:36:06 +0000 BOSTON – Federal officials have a warning for beachgoers in New England during Memorial Day weekend: Don’t take selfies with the seals.

Seal pupping season is underway in the region, but people who approach a seal pup on the beach can put both themselves and the animal at risk, the Greater Atlantic Region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries said in a statement Thursday.

“There is no selfie stick long enough!” officials warned. “As tempting as it might be to get that perfect shot of yourself or your child with an adorable seal pup, please do the right thing and leave the seal pup alone.”

It is normal behavior for a mother seal to leave her pup on the beach for up to 24 hours while she feeds, experts said. But if the mother sees people near her pup, she might feel it is too dangerous to return and abandon her young, with “devastating” consequences for the pup.

The statement also notes that wild animals act unpredictably and seals can leave a “lasting impression” with their powerful jaws.

“We have received reports of a number of injuries to humans as a result of getting too close to an animal during a quick photo op,” officials wrote.

Experts have long warned about the dangers of swimming too close to seals in the water, since seals are a favorite food for sharks and the sharks might not distinguish between people and their intended prey.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 19:36:06 +0000
Archaeologist: Boston shipwreck is rare, remarkable find Thu, 26 May 2016 23:30:08 +0000 BOSTON — A sunken, burned ship from the 1800s uncovered during a construction project in Boston’s Seaport District is a rare and remarkable find, the city’s archaeologist said.

City archaeologist Joe Bagley said Thursday it’s the first time a shipwreck has been found in that section of the city and only the second one found on land that was filled in to expand the city’s footprint. Also, unlike most other wrecks, its cargo is mostly intact, he said.

The vessel, which appears to be partially burnt, was uncovered last week during construction of a 17-story office building. The company working at the site, Skanska, halted construction so archaeologists could examine the ship.

The outline of a shipwreck from the 1800s that was uncovered during construction in the Seaport District is seen to the left of a construction vehicle on Wednesday in Boston.

The outline of a shipwreck from the 1800s that was uncovered during construction in the Seaport District is seen to the left of a construction vehicle on Wednesday in Boston. The Associated Press

The area was once mudflats that alternated between dry land and water based on the tides, so ships “kind of sailed right over” the property, Bagley said. In the late 1800s, that section of Boston Harbor was filled in. Now, it’s home to office buildings, expensive condos and upscale restaurants.

Archaeologists studying the vessel found a shattered ceramic vessel, a knife, construction equipment and some loose nails, Bagley said.

He said it appears the ship had a load of lime, which was used for masonry and construction. The lime would have been unusable after getting wet, so the cargo was left where it was, Bagley said. He called that fact “pretty remarkable,” since at the time ships typically would have been completely scavenged of their valuables within days of being wrecked.

A portion of a shipwreck from the 1800s that has been uncovered during construction in the Seaport District is seen Wednesday in Boston.

A portion of a shipwreck from the 1800s that has been uncovered during construction in the Seaport District is seen Wednesday in Boston.

The lime was likely brought from Maine to Boston during a 19th century building boom, he said. Bagley noted the coincidence that the ship was found now, during another building boom in the city.

“They’re really part of the same narrative of Boston growing as a city,” he said.

He said the discovery says a lot about the 386-year-old city.

“To me what it says is that history is everywhere in Boston — sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find it,” he added.

Shawn Hurley, a Skanska executive, said work was halted for almost a week because of the find.

“There are certainly impacts, but we’ll work through them,” he said.

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 11:28:22 +0000
Poll: Many Americans opting for earlier, lower Social Security benefits Thu, 26 May 2016 23:27:38 +0000 CHICAGO — Taking Social Security benefits early comes with a price, yet more than 4 in 10 Americans who are 50 and over say they’ll dip into the program before reaching full retirement age.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Thursday found that 44 percent report Social Security will be their biggest source of income during their retirement years.

Full benefits begin at 65 or 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. Americans can begin collecting as early as age 62, but with benefits reduced by up to 30 percent, according to the Social Security Administration.

“One thing we know for certain is that claiming early can have long-term repercussions on your fiscal security as you age,” said Gary Koenig, vice president of financial security at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Koenig said benefits increase significantly for those who wait, rising around 8 percent more for each additional year past age 66 and up to 70, when benefits max out.

“So we encourage people to delay as long as possible,” he said.

But waiting is a luxury many Americans don’t have.

Ken Chrzastek of Chicago began drawing Social Security benefits at age 62 and pulled $50,000 out of an IRA after losing a retail job two years ago. He has been unable to find even part-time work. “Hiring a 62-year-old is a liability for a company,” he said.

The poll found that Americans 50 and over have multiple sources of income for retirement but that Social Security is the most common by far. Eighty-six percent say they have or will have Social Security income. More than half had a retirement account such as a 401(k), 403(b), or an IRA. Slightly less had other savings. About 43 percent had a traditional pension.

The average age at which people expect to start or have started collecting Social Security benefits is 64. Just 9 percent said they would wait until after they turned 70.

Included in any discussion about Social Security are lingering questions about its solvency.

The Social Security trust fund has been running a surplus every year since 1984. Those surpluses are forecast to stop sometime around 2020, as more boomers start claiming benefits.

The Social Security Administration says interest income from the fund should be able to bridge this gap until 2034, when, without changes, payments could shrink but not disappear.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 19:27:38 +0000
More than 4,000 migrants rescued at sea while trying to reach Europe Thu, 26 May 2016 23:13:51 +0000 ROME — More than 4,000 would-be refugees were rescued at sea Thursday in one of the busiest days of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, and at least 20 died trying to reach Europe as Libyan-based smugglers took advantage of calmer seas to send desperate migrants north.

The death toll was likely to grow far higher, however. The Libyan coast guard also reported two overturned boats between the coastal cities of Sabratha and Zwara. Only four bodies were found, raising fears that the rest of those on board had died.

Overall, the Italian coast guard said it had coordinated 22 separate rescue operations Thursday that saved more than 4,000 lives.

“That probably is a record,” said coast guard spokesman Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro, noting that previous highs have been in the range of 5,000 to 6,000 over two days.

One 5-year-old boy got special treatment: He was airlifted from his rescue vessel to the island of Lampedusa, suffering from hypothermia, Nicastro said.

At least one smuggler boat sank off Libya’s coast, and 20 bodies were spotted floating in the sea, said Navy Lt. Rino Gentile, a spokesman for the EU’s Mediterranean mission. Photos tweeted by the mission showed a bright-blue dinghy submerged under the weight of migrants waving their arms in hope of rescue as an EU aircraft flew overhead. None had a life jacket.

Two Italian coast guard ships and the Spanish frigate Reina Sofia responded to the scene. Nicastro said 96 people were rescued.

Barbara Molinario, spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency in Italy, said favorable weather conditions from May to October often encourage migrant crossings. She said about 40,000 people have been rescued so far this year, not counting the recent ones, compared with 47,500 over the same period in 2015.

Among those coming ashore Thursday in Sicily were the survivors of a dramatic capsizing a day earlier off Libya’s coast. Footage provided by the Italian navy showed the steel-hulled smuggler ship rocking under the weight of its passengers until it finally flipped, sending migrants into the water or clambering up the side.

The Italian navy vessel Bettica brought the survivors and five bodies ashore in Porto Empedocle, Sicily. Red Cross workers took at least one migrant away in a stretcher, while rescue teams in white hazmat suits carried children down the plank to shore.

In other rescues, a Libyan navy spokesman said a total of 766 migrants were rescued by the Libyan coast guard Thursday.

Col. Ayoub Gassim said two other capsized boats were found empty in waters between the two cities and only four bodies were retrieved, with the rest of those aboard feared dead. He said he had no other details, including how many migrants had been aboard the boats.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 19:13:51 +0000
El Faro sinking called a ‘colossal failure’ of management Thu, 26 May 2016 22:54:11 +0000 From staff reports

The lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday called the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship a “colossal failure” of management by its owner, according to WCSH-TV.

Investigator Tom Roth Roffy was responding to comments made by Pete Keller, a top executive with TOTE Maritime, the company that owned and operated the El Faro, during a hearing about the disaster in Jacksonville, Florida, WCSH reported.

The El Faro sank with all 33 crew members aboard east of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1. It was one of the worst U.S. maritime disasters in decades.

Four Mainers, including captain Michael Davidson, were on the ship when it sank. Other crew members from Maine were Dylan Meklin and Danielle Randolph of Rockland, and Michael Holland of Wilton. All were graduates of Maine Maritime Academy, as was a fifth crew member, Mitchell Kuflik of Brooklyn, New York.

“Few would dispute the loss of the ship El Faro and its cargo and most importantly the loss of 33 souls about the El Faro represents a colossal failure in management of the companies responsible for the safe operation of the El Faro,” Roth Roffy said at the hearing.

The Coast Guard panel conducting the hearing questioned Keller about commercial pressures in the shipping industry. Investigators are trying to determine if Davidson felt pressure to sail despite the storm to meet his schedule. Keller told investigators he was not involved in day-to-day operations of the ship, and that as long as everything was working well he was satisfied.

Responding to Roth Roffy, Keller said he thought the tragic loss is “all about an accident and I look to this board and the NTSB to define what those elements may or may not have been.”

Keller said he could not come up with any management failures that could have led to the sinking of the El Faro, according to WCSH. Tote has not conducted its own investigation into the disaster to determine what happened, other than to cooperate with the Coast Guard and NTSB, Keller said.

]]> 0 Thu, 26 May 2016 22:25:47 +0000
Baylor demotes president, fires football coach in sexual assault case Thu, 26 May 2016 22:41:45 +0000 AUSTIN, Texas — Ken Starr, who zealously pursued charges against a sitting U.S. president in a White House sex scandal, was stripped of his job as president of Baylor University on Thursday after a scathing review showed that under his leadership, the school did little to respond to accusations of sexual assault involving members of its vaunted football program.

The board of regents at the nation’s largest Baptist university said Starr will vacate the presidency May 31 and stay on as chancellor and law school professor, jobs that will not include any “operational” duties for the school.

Baylor also fired Coach Art Briles and put Athletic Director Ian McCaw – who was the sports information director at the Universty of Maine from 1986-92 – on probation after an external investigation found the actions of the football staff and athletics leadership “in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the university.”

The report didn’t identify specific cases, but two football players have been convicted of sexual assault since 2014. In the past year, there have been multiple reports of assaults and women who said the school did nothing to help.

“We’re deeply sorrowful (for) these events,” said Baylor regents Chairman Richard Willis. “We’re honestly just horrified.”

Starr gets to keep a title and a job, but his demotion at the school in Waco, Texas, is a stunning fall for the prosecutor whose dogged investigation of President Bill Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to Clinton’s 1998 impeachment.

The review by Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton found that under Starr, school administrators discouraged students from reporting or participating in student conduct reviews of sexual assault complaints and even contributed to or accommodated a “hostile” environment against the alleged victims.

In one case, the actions of administrators “constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault,” the report said.

University leadership was also slow to enact federally-required student conduct processes, and administrators failed to identify and eliminate the hostile environment toward victims, the report found.

In a statement to the Waco Tribune-Herald, Starr apologized to “those victims who were not treated with the care, concern, and support they deserve.”

He insisted he didn’t learn about the problems until fall 2015 and launched investigations as soon as he did.

“Despite these dark days, I remain resolved to join hands with the Baylor family to continue to build the University as we carry out its distinct mission in Christian higher education. May God grant us grace, mercy, and peace,” Starr said.

Once a losing program, Baylor football enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. Starr, who arrived at the school in 2010, went along for the ride and often ran onto the field with students during pregame ceremonies.

Football victories brought a financial windfall. In 2014, Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium and Starr became one of the leading voices among the presidents in the Big 12.

The 13-page “findings of fact” released by Baylor didn’t name Starr, Briles or McCaw individually, but the investigation covered from 2011-2015. Briles has been Baylor’s football coach since 2008 and McCaw became athletic director in 2003.

None of those three immediately responded to requests for comment.

Jasmin Hernandez, a former Baylor student who testified in football player Tevin Elliott’s 2014 rape trial, has filed a federal lawsuit against the school. She said Thursday the Pepper Hamilton report appears “honest and forthright” and shows the systemic way students who complained of sexual assault were denied their rights.

While The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify sexual assault victims, Hernandez has spoken publicly to draw attention to the case.

Hernandez agreed with Starr’s demotion but said “what concerns me more was the propagation of rape culture within Baylor University.”

University officials time and again had knowledge of assaults committed by football players and others but took no action, Hernandez said, adding she won’t drop her lawsuit.

It was Starr who initiated the Pepper Hamilton review that would lead to his downfall, ordering it last year after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Pepper Hamilton lawyer Gina Smith said the firm reviewed more than a million pages of documents, reports and interviews before presenting its findings to Baylor’s regents earlier this month.

While critical of top administrators for ignoring problems or being slow to act, the most critical elements were aimed at Briles’ football program.

The report found that football coaches and athletics administrators had run their own improper investigations into rape claims, and that in some cases, they chose not to report such allegations to an administrator outside of athletics.

By running their own “untrained” investigations and meeting directly with a complainant, football staff “improperly discredited” complainants’ claims and “denied them a right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation.”

The football program acted in ways that “reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules,” the report said.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 19:06:31 +0000
French police search McDonald’s offices looking for evidence of tax fraud Thu, 26 May 2016 22:36:35 +0000 PARIS — French police have searched McDonald’s headquarters outside Paris after a probe was opened for alleged aggravated tax fraud and money-laundering against the local branch of the fast-food company.

The national financial prosecutor’s office said Thursday documents were seized when the tax fraud police unit searched the headquarters in Guyancourt, west of Paris, last week.

Investigators suspect the burger chain of artificially reducing its profits and taxes in France through license fees and other money transfers to its European parent company in Luxembourg.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company has said it pays all its income taxes in France in accordance with current legislation.

The French branch says that, like all companies operating in franchising, it pays fees to the parent company to cover rights of know-how use and transfer and that the fees can be deducted from corporation taxes due in France.

It says that the level of the fee is subject to regular back and forth with the different national tax administrations, in France and in other countries where McDonald’s operates.

Earlier this week, the national financial prosecutor’s office ordered a search at Google’s French headquarters, also looking for evidence of aggravated tax fraud.

]]> 0 Thu, 26 May 2016 18:36:35 +0000
Group escapes Kentucky cave by wading out through neck-deep water Thu, 26 May 2016 21:57:16 +0000 HORSE CAVE, Ky. — Flash flooding threatened to trap a group of college students inside a Kentucky cave Thursday, but they navigated through neck-deep water to safety, authorities said.

The 19 people who escaped had to clutch onto a rope to handle the swift currents of floodwaters near the entrance of Hidden River Cave.

The group that spent more than six hours inside the cave included Clemson University students on a field trip, four tour guides and two police officers who got trapped when they tried to rescue the group, Kentucky State Police Trooper B.J. Eaton said.

There was no communication between the stranded cavers and the more than 150 emergency personnel at the scene. Authorities didn’t know exactly where the missing cavers were underground, and the only light the group had came from headlamps they wore.

The cavers, accompanied by a couple of experienced guides, were unaware of the rising waters threatening to block the cave’s entrance. Heavy rains hit the area hours after the group ventured inside, said David Foster, executive director of the American Cave Museum at Horse Cave.

The storm hit earlier than expected, so Foster and a couple of others decided to find the group and bring them back out, he said.

“It was pretty scary,” he said in an interview. “We felt like if we waited for them to just come out on their own, the flood might be too intense and they might be trapped there.”

Foster said his rescue team ventured about a mile into the cave, where they found the group in a “high and dry” area.

With only one way in and out of the cave, they needed to reach the group before a wall of water might shut off the escape route.

“The whole time we’re back there in the cave, we’re thinking, ‘Gosh, I hope the water hasn’t closed us off,'” Foster said. “That’s the scary thought as you’re going deeper into the cave.”

The final stretch was the most precarious, when they had to wade and swim through high water, Foster said.

At one point, a canyon filled with water, and the group used an escape route built for such emergencies, he said.

“That was a lifesaver today,” he said.

They held onto the rope during the final stretch to make their way through the water.

“When they came out of the cave, they were neck-deep in water,” Hart County Emergency Management Director Kerry McDaniel said.

The cave is in south-central Kentucky’s karst region, where many of state’s longest and deepest caves run underground.

The Clemson students had planned a five-hour trip exploring the cave’s geology when torrential rains hit the region after they entered, McDaniel said. The group went into the cave about 10 a.m. CDT Thursday and emerged about 4:30 p.m. They were checked for hypothermia but declined further medical attention, McDaniel said.

Four other people were able to escape earlier, Horse Cave Fire Chief Donnie Parker said. He didn’t have details about how they got out.

Two Horse Cave police officers who became trapped had entered the cave about 3 p.m. in an effort to make contact with the stranded group, authorities said. They were met by the four people who had managed to escape.

“We looked at this from the beginning and hoped it was a search rather than a recovery operation,” McDaniel said.

The attraction’s website offers to take visitors through one of Kentucky’s largest caves and says two subterranean rivers flow more than 100 feet below ground. In addition to public guided tours and longer adventure tours, a zip line and rappelling are also offered.

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 08:13:47 +0000
Dreaded antibiotic-resistant ‘superbug’ reaches U.S. Thu, 26 May 2016 21:32:45 +0000 For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could mean “the end of the road” for antibiotics.

The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Defense Department researchers determined that she carried a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, according to a study published Thursday in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The authors wrote that the discovery “heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria.”

Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs, including a family of bacteria known as CRE, which health officials have dubbed “nightmare bacteria.” In some instances, these superbugs kill up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called CRE among the country’s most urgent public health threats.

It’s the first time this colistin-resistant strain has been found in a person in the United States. In November, public health officials worldwide reacted with alarm when Chinese and British researchers reported finding the colistin-resistant strain in pigs, raw pork meat and in a small number of people in China. The deadly strain was later discovered in Europe and elsewhere.

“It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics – that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in an interview Thursday.

“I’ve been there for TB patients. I’ve cared for patients for whom there are no drugs left. It is a feeling of such horror and helplessness,” Frieden added. “This is not where we need to be.”


CDC officials are working with Pennsylvania health authorities to interview the patient and family to identify how she may have contracted the bacteria, including reviewing recent hospitalizations and other health-care exposures.

CDC hopes to screen the patient and her contacts to see if others might be carrying the organism. Local and state health departments also will be collecting cultures as part of the investigation.

Thursday’s study did not disclose further details about the Pennsylvania woman or the outcome of her case. The authors could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson at the Pennsylvania Department of Health was not immediately available to comment on the case.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., said he is concerned about the reports. In a statement, Casey said he supported legislation for and participated in hearings about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which he said “present an urgent public health problem that we must focus on intensively.”

He said he planned to get a full briefing on the case in the coming days.

Scientists and public health officials have long warned that if the resistant bacteria continue to spread, it could seriously limit treatment options. Routine operations could become deadly. Minor infections could become life-threatening crises. Pneumonia could be more and more difficult to treat.


Already, doctors had been forced to rely on colistin as a last-line defense against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The drug is hardly ideal. It is more than half a century old and can seriously damage a patient’s kidneys. And yet, because doctors have run out of weapons to fight a growing number of infections that evade more modern antibiotics, it has become a critical tool in fighting off some of the most tenacious infections.

Bacteria develop antibiotic resistance in two ways. Many acquire mutations in their own genomes that allow them to withstand antibiotics, although that ability can’t be shared with pathogens outside their own family.

Other bacteria rely on a shortcut: They get infected with something called a plasmid, a small piece of DNA, carrying a gene for antibiotic resistance. That makes resistance genes more dangerous because plasmids can make copies of themselves and transfer the genes they carry to other bugs within the same family as well as jump to other families of bacteria, which can then “catch” the resistance directly without having to develop it through evolution.

The colistin-resistant E. coli found in the Pennsylvania woman has this type of resistance gene.

Public health officials say they have expecting this resistance gene to turn up in the United States.

“This is definitely alarming,” said David Hyun, a senior officer leading an antibiotic-resistance project at the Pew Charitable Trust. “The fact that we found it in the United States confirms our suspicions and adds urgency to actions we need to work on antibiotic stewardship and surveillance for this type of resistance.”

Late last year, as part of a broader budget deal, Congress agreed to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal agencies engaged in the battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The largest chunk of that money, more than $150 million, was slated to go to the CDC as part of an effort to build and strengthen capacity at state and local health departments to prevent and monitor superbug outbreaks.

Other funding went to the National Institutes of Health for research on combating antimicrobial resistance, as well as to an agency known as BARDA, which works on national preparedness for chemical and biological threats, including developing new therapies.

]]> 4, 27 May 2016 08:11:48 +0000
Witness with mental illness cleared to testify in Portland murder trial Thu, 26 May 2016 20:52:33 +0000 A judge on Thursday ruled that a mentally ill man known to smoke crack cocaine can be called to testify as a key prosecution witness in the trial of a Portland man accused of shooting another city man to death in 2014.

The judge in the case against 25-year-old Abdirahman Haji-Hassan also ruled, over the objection of prosecutors, that defense attorneys can name an alternative suspect during trial, because that man, Gang Deng Majok of Portland, was also in the apartment at 214 Brighton Ave. when 23-year-old Richard Lobor was killed.

Majok faces murder and assault charges in a separate shooting at a recording studio in Portland’s Old Port that left one dead and one injured last year.

Haji-Hassan’s case is scheduled for jury selection on Friday. His trial is scheduled to start with opening statements by attorneys on Tuesday in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.

The judge made the rulings Thursday during a pretrial hearing at which prosecutors sought to have Michael Deblois declared mentally competent to testify despite having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia since 1997. Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea called Deblois to the witness stand to answer questions aimed at demonstrating his competence.

Deblois, 45, was the tenant of the apartment where Lobor was killed on Nov. 21, 2014, and called 911 to report the shooting. Other men were in the apartment when Lobor was shot in the leg and head, but only Deblois has cooperated with authorities.

Deblois spoke with precision and seemed to have a firm grasp of his surroundings as he identified each of the officials in the courtroom and explained their different roles. He also recalled some basic details from the night of the shooting.

But under questioning by one of Haji-Hassan’s attorneys, Molly Butler Bailey, Deblois tried to explain a statement he gave to police in 2014 about a woman and “her little invisible friends.” He said the memory could have been from the night before the murder, or may have dated back to an episode in Colorado in 1992.

“No one’s talked about it, and I haven’t talked about it, but it hasn’t appeared to go away,” Deblois said, referring to the 1992 incident at which he suggested the murder was foretold. “I heard something about this. I would be involved in a shooting later on in life, and I didn’t know if I would live or die.”

Deblois said he could not recall whether he was taking his prescription medication for schizophrenia in 2014, but said he is taking it now.

“I’m going to find Mr. Deblois is competent to testify and leave all questions of believability to the jury,” Justice Thomas Warren said in his ruling.

Defense attorney Butler Bailey had argued at a previous hearing seeking to have Deblois’ testimony excluded because he had been high on crack cocaine before the murder, as it occurred, and while calling 911 to report it, and because of his schizophrenia.

Deblois knew the men in his apartment only by their nicknames, “Fresh,” “Dreads,” “New York” and “Jordan.” He allowed them to use his apartment in the Princeton Village complex for parties and gave them rides in exchange for drinks, food and crack cocaine, according to police. Police subsequently identified “Fresh” as Lobor, “Jordan” as Haji-Hassan, “Dreads” as 29-year-old Mohamed Ashkir and “New York” as Majok.

Majok, 31, of Portland, is charged with murder in the May 25, 2015, shooting death of 19-year-old Treyjon Arsenault and wounding of 21-year-old Mohamed Ali of Portland at Da Block Studios at 371 Fore St. in Portland. He and another defendant in that case, Johnny Ouch, 21, of Westbrook, are scheduled for trial starting Sept. 12.

Another of Haji-Hassan’s attorneys, Clifford Strike, told the judge Thursday that he may also argue to have one or more other men named as additional alternative suspects in Lobor’s murder.

Deblois told police on the night of Lobor’s murder that he entered the living room while Haji-Hassan and Ashkir were arguing in a foreign language and that Haji-Hassan pointed a silver-colored .357-caliber revolver at Ashkir, according to an affidavit by Portland police Detective Maryann Bailey.

” ‘Jordan’ was moving the revolver up and down and counting. He was telling ‘Dreads’ to leave the apartment,” Bailey wrote. ” ‘Fresh’ moved in between ‘Dreads’ and ‘Jordan’ to mediate the situation.”

Deblois testified Thursday that he heard three shots, but saw only two of them.

Police in Minnesota arrested Haji-Hassan in Minneapolis on Dec. 19, 2014, and he has been held since then. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of willful and intentional murder, which is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

Twitter: @scottddolan

]]> 5, 27 May 2016 08:12:45 +0000
Titles shuffled at education department to keep LePage’s choice in charge Thu, 26 May 2016 20:00:22 +0000 State Department of Education officials played a little musical chairs with job titles this week.

But Gov. Paul LePage’s top choice to lead the department – Bill Beardsley – is still calling the tunes.

This year, LePage outflanked lawmakers by using procedural moves to install Beardsley temporarily in the role of acting commissioner while bypassing the legislative confirmation process. LePage had nominated Beardsley to be commissioner in January, but withdrew the nomination a month later after Democrats on the education committee indicated they might vote to block the appointment of the former president of Husson University.

This week, another round of temporary appointments was triggered because the governor needed someone at the education department with the authority to act on behalf of the department, according to LePage’s spokeswoman.

Debra Plowman, who was director of policy and programs, was named “temporary deputy commissioner” on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she appointed Beardsley “deputy commissioner,” and he serves at the pleasure of Plowman, who has a six-month term as temporary deputy commissioner.

Under state law, a temporary deputy commissioner cannot be reappointed – and Beardsley already held that role last year.

“This is a legal formality. After Dr. Bill Beardsley’s six months as acting commissioner expired, it was necessary for the governor to empower someone at the Department of Education with the authority to sign on behalf of the commissioner,” spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett wrote in an email. “(Plowman) has ratified Bill’s appointment as deputy commissioner for the department and has empowered him to act on behalf of the department. Dr. Beardsley will continue to lead the department and remains a member of the governor’s Cabinet.”

Bennett noted that LePage intends to renominate Beardsley in the next legislative session.

The head of the state’s teachers union immediately criticized the move.

“Educators in Maine deserve a qualified, dedicated leader at the Department of Education,” Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley said.

“It is not, in the minds of educators statewide, too much to ask for this state to have a leader at the Maine DOE who both has a background in education, understands the changing dynamics of the profession and the work required, and who first and foremost is going to put student learning first,” she said. “Appointing someone to the post of education commissioner shouldn’t be a shuffle of the deck to see which card lands on top.”

The issue came up Wednesday night at the governor’s town hall meeting in Bangor. The Education Committee’s Democratic chair, Rep. Victoria Kornfield, asked LePage when the state would have a permanent commissioner for the department, which has a $1 billion budget.

“You have one, ma’am,” he told her, saying Beardsley would lead the department while he is governor. According to a video of the town hall, LePage said he would have a new acting commissioner every six months, and that person would delegate his or her authority to Beardsley.

“Bill Beardsley is an excellent candidate, an excellent choice and you folks are just playing games, excuse me, but that’s the truth,” he said, to scattered applause. When she responded by saying the committee had never held a hearing, LePage said, “Thank you. I answered your question, I answered your question.”

In February, when challenged on the nomination, LePage responded by vowing to take over some responsibilities of the job rather than subject his nominee to political scrutiny. The governor’s comments prompted criticism from Democrats, who accused LePage of circumventing the process for appointing state agency chiefs.

On Thursday, Sen. Rebecca Millett called on the governor to bring his nominee forward to the Legislature.

“Our students, teachers and communities deserve vetted, qualified leaders at the helm of DOE. Instead, the governor has pledged to continue selecting political patrons for short-term stints as acting commissioners, all while Bill Beardsley pulls the strings from the behind the scenes,” said Millett, who is on the Education Committee. “If Gov. LePage believes Deb Plowman, Bill Beardsley or anyone else is the right person to help our students succeed, he should be willing to put them in front of the Education Committee and the Senate, the same way every other governor has done. He is not above the rules.”

Beardsley has come under scrutiny over the years for a series of issues. This year, when the transgender bathroom issue was heating up, critics noted Beardsley’s comments in 2010 when he was a gubernatorial candidate.

“On the transgender issue – it seems like – that I feel so badly for little children that are being, you know, kind of decisions being made for them that are outside what we call our normal activities here in the state and imposing those kind of things on a very small child,” he said at the time, during an interview with the “Aroostook Watchmen” radio show.

In April, he was criticized for attending a closed-door meeting at the Blaine House on education funding that was in violation of the state’s open-meeting law.

In 2012, and again in 2015, he was questioned about how he handled the case of Bob Carlson, a former chaplain at Husson University who committed suicide after learning state police were investigating allegations that he sexually abused several children over a period of 40 years. Beardsley has repeatedly said he had no knowledge of any illegal activity by Carlson.

Beardsley was appointed to the State Board of Education in 2012 after a significant floor debate and a party-line vote.

Beardsley previously served as commissioner of the Department of Conservation from 2011 to 2012 and was president of Husson University from 1987 to 2010.


]]> 35, 27 May 2016 00:03:03 +0000
Wayfair making progress toward hiring 1,000 in Maine Thu, 26 May 2016 19:58:14 +0000 Wayfair, the online home furnishings company, is on track to hire 1,000 workers for its operations opening this summer in Maine, a company executive said Thursday.

Liz Graham, the company’s vice president for sales and service, said Wayfair is on track to open its sales and customer service operation at Brunswick Landing in Brunswick next month and another operation in Bangor in July.

The company sells products ranging from furniture to flooring, lighting, plumbing and appliances. Its newest feature will allow customers to use a tablet to “place” a 3-D rendering of furniture in their home to see how it will look.

Graham said Wayfair is happy with the qualifications of the job candidates interviewed so far and has extended offers to many. She declined to provide specific information on how many employees have been hired or offered jobs, but said the pace is strong enough for the company’s plans.

Some job market analysts have speculated that the company may have a hard time finding enough qualified workers in Maine’s tight labor market. Statewide unemployment was 4.5 percent in April, but it is much lower in some markets – it was 2.7 percent in April in Cumberland County, where Brunswick is located.

The jobs are largely in sales and customer service. Graham provided no details about what the company will pay its employees, but she said the jobs offer good salaries and benefits and the offices will feature open floor plans and a “very Silicon Valley” job culture. She said that means that there are no offices, employees are empowered and a “high-energy, tech- and data-driven culture” is encouraged.

Graham was in Portland on Thursday to speak at Trade Day, an event sponsored by the Maine International Trade Center. Wayfair, which was founded in 2002, is based in the U.S., but expanded to the United Kingdom in 2008, the rest of Europe in 2009 and to Canada this year. Because of Maine’s proximity to Canada, she said the company expects to hire some local employees who speak French to handle calls from francophone Canadians.

She said that online retailing is less common in Canada and Europe than in the U.S., but the markets are large and the company has so far recorded strong growth overseas. Canada, too, is seen as fertile ground, and customers there have been able to shop on the U.S. site for the past eight years before a site dedicated to that country started operating in the first quarter of this year.

“We see a lot of opportunity there for future growth,” she said, speculating that Wayfair’s market share in Canada eventually could exceed the company’s market share in the U.S.

Wayfair projects net revenues of $2.6 billion this year and growth in direct retail sales were up 93 percent in the first quarter this year.

She said Maine was attractive to the company because of its loyal employees and a stable workforce along with a strong customer service culture.

]]> 4 Thu, 26 May 2016 21:02:08 +0000
Will Sanders vs. Trump debate move from late-night TV joke to reality? Thu, 26 May 2016 19:25:15 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Thirteen minutes into his interview with Donald Trump, ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel said he had a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The Democratic primary underdog, who has camped out in California all week, was set to appear on Thursday night’s episode.

“Here’s the question from Bernie,” said Kimmel. “Hillary Clinton backed out of an agreement to debate me before the Democratic primary. Are you prepared to debate the major issues facing our largest state and the country before the California primary?”

“Yes, I am,” said Trump. “How much is he going to pay me? If I debated him, we would have such high ratings, I think I should take that money and give it to charity.”

It seemed like a joke from a host who’s currently waging (and merchandising) a satirical bid for vice president. But the Sanders campaign was really, truly interested in an intramural debate before the June 7 primary.

“He takes Trump at his word that when Trump says yes, Trump means yes,” said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs. “Details to be worked out.”

Trump’s quick assent hit Twitter like an asteroid, as analysts pondered what a Sanders-Trump debate could look like.

The frenzy let Sanders repeat his previous call for Clinton to face him in one final debate, something she agreed to long before it seemed the primary would hit the West Coast. But the idea of a Sanders-Trump debate has existed in stand-up comedy for months.

James Adomian and Anthony Atamanuik have crisscrossed the country and recorded several cable TV specials as Sanders and Trump, imitating the tropes and personas of the two New York politicians and twisting them into absurdity. (Each show ends with the comedians duetting on “Me and My Shadow.”)

“We have been accurately predicting many wild turns in this incredibly unpredictable election, but this is the wildest and greatest imaginable,” said Adomian in a text message, after the latest Trump vs. Bernie show at the Fillmore in Silver Spring. “This is an instance when we are proud and shocked to see life imitate art.”

]]> 4, 26 May 2016 16:18:51 +0000
Jury clears two Augusta police officers of excessive force claim Thu, 26 May 2016 19:12:06 +0000 BANGOR — A jury deliberated less than an hour before clearing two Augusta police officers of a claim that they used excessive force while arresting a veteran on a criminal trespass charge in August 2012 at the Augusta homeless shelter.

Michael J. Albert Sr., now 60 and living in an apartment in Bangor, says he suffered a torn rotator cuff when one or more officers forced his outstretched left arm behind his back while handcuffing him after he had refused orders to leave the shelter.

Albert filed a civil complaint in U.S. District Court in Maine against the city of Augusta, the Augusta police department, the police chief and a number of officers.

However, only two officers, Sgt. Vicente Morris and Patrol Officer Benjamin Murtiff, remained as defendants when the case reached trial this week.

Both officers testified Wednesday and denied using excessive force on Albert. The jury of six women and two men agreed.

Albert was taken to Kennebec County jail following his arrest on a charge of criminal trespass, which was later dismissed.

Medical providers at the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus diagnosed Albert with a torn rotator cuff four days after his arrest, and Albert had surgery to repair it in Bangor in July 2014.

He was seeking payment from the police for medical expenses and compensatory and punitive damages.

“The fact that the arrest was justified does not give anyone the right to use excessive force,” Albert’s attorney Stephen Packard said in closing arguments.

Attorney Edward Benjamin, representing the officers, told jurors, “The police are entitled to use a reasonable degree of force to overcome his resistance.”

Benjamin asked them to return a verdict in favor of the officers.

A half dozen people watched the closing arguments from the spectators’ area.

Albert reacted loudly to some of Benjamin’s closing remarks, prompting Magistrate Judge John Nivison to say, “Mr. Albert, any other outburst and you’re going to be asked to leave.”

A minute or so later, Albert walked out of the courtroom, muttering loudly before returning about five minutes later.

At one point during Packard’s closing, one of the six women on the jury appeared to be asleep for at least several minutes, with her head tilted back and resting on the wall behind her and her eyes closed.

Christian Carson, the final defense witness called Thursday morning, testified that he called police to have Albert removed from the shelter because Albert was behaving in an uncharacteristic, confrontational manner with other veterans and “yelling in people’s faces.”

Carson said he asked Albert to leave and he refused. Albert told Carson he “wasn’t man enough” to force Albert to leave.

Carson said that even after three police officers arrived, “We were all trying to calm him down and trying to convince him it was not in his best interest to go to jail.”

He testified that he believed Albert was going to punch him when Albert got up from a picnic table on the shelter grounds and moved toward him.

However, Murtiff stepped between them. Albert was arrested shortly afterward and charged with criminal trespass. The charge was later dismissed by the district attorney’s office because Murtiff was unavailable to serve as a witness.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 15:12:06 +0000
N.H. man pleads guilty to holding teenager captive, raping her for 9 months Thu, 26 May 2016 18:59:18 +0000 LACONIA, N.H. — A man who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl when she accepted his offer of a ride home from school because her feet were sore, held her in captivity for nine months and raped her repeatedly at his trailer acknowledged his crimes on Thursday.

Nathaniel Kibby pleaded guilty to kidnapping, aggravated felonious sex assault and criminal threatening, and prosecutors asked for a sentence of 45 to 90 years in prison for him.

Kibby, who had pleaded not guilty shortly after his arrest, had been scheduled to go on trial next month on nearly 200 felony charges related to the girl’s October 2013 disappearance and the months that followed. But he changed his plea to guilty at a hearing on Thursday.

Before the 35-year-old Kibby could enter his new plea, a prosecutor said Kibby had kidnapped the girl by offering her a ride home from her school and then brandishing a gun when she attempted to get out of his car.

Prosecutor Jane Young said the girl and Kibby didn’t know each other and she accepted the ride because she’d worn boots to school and her feet were blistered. Young said when the girl tried to get out of the car in a parking lot Kibby pulled out the gun and threatened to “blow her brains out.”

Kibby also pleaded guilty to witness tampering and other offenses. Last week, a judge ruled Kibby’s lawyers could not question the girl before his trial about her exposure to media coverage and the amount of freedom she was given to move about his trailer in Gorham, where prosecutors say he used a stun gun, zip ties and a shock collar to control her.

Kibby was charged with kidnapping the girl on Oct. 9, 2013, as she walked home from her high school in Conway. The girl returned to her home in North Conway the night of July 20, 2014, but prosecutors have not elaborated on the circumstances of her return. She waited until a week after she was home to reveal Kibby’s identity. She was able to identify Kibby because she spotted his full name inside a cookbook in his home.

Lawyers hired by the girl’s family said she had suffered “numerous acts of unspeakable violence” during her months of captivity. Their statement was largely a plea for privacy and did not elaborate on what she endured. The girl, who is now 17 years old, attended Thursday’s hearing.

This story has been corrected to show court officials announced the change of plea on Thursday, not Friday.

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Gardiner man dies in single-car crash Thu, 26 May 2016 18:48:17 +0000 GARDINER — A Gardiner man was killed in a single-vehicle accident Wednesday on Marston Road.

Kenneth Wilson, 56, was discovered by a passer-by, unconscious in a 1996 Volvo sedan, which had rolled over on Marston Road, according to police Chief James Toman.

Wilson was the car’s driver and lone occupant. He was dead at the scene, Toman said.

The passer-by who came across the crashed car called 911 at 4:04 p.m.

In addition to police, Gardiner Fire and Emergency Medical Services went to the accident scene.

Toman said the investigation is ongoing, but preliminarily, it appeared Wilson was traveling north on Marston Road, headed toward U.S. Route 201, when he possibly suffered a medical problem that caused him to crash into a tree, which caused the Volvo to roll over and land on its roof.

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Wiscasset Water District to get $4 million for water safety Thu, 26 May 2016 18:20:20 +0000 WISCASSET – A water district in Wiscasset will receive more than $4 million in federal money to replace century-old water lines.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel says the money will help the Wiscasset Water District make sure more than 1,000 residents have access to clean, safe drinking water.

The USDA says water lines in the area are in poor condition which decreases water quality and makes them susceptible to costly main breaks.

The district serves Wiscasset, Woolwich and part of Edgecomb.

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Collins, King push for leases to aid VA medical facilities Thu, 26 May 2016 17:39:45 +0000 Maine’s two U.S. senators are among a group of legislators who want the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to authorize leases for medical facilities in 12 states.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King say the leases have been waiting for congressional authorization for more than a year.

Laws say that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to receive authorization to lease medical facilities that have average annual rental payments of more than $1 million.

The senators say the failure to authorize the leases has hampered the VA’s ability to provide health care to veterans around the country.

One of the leases involves a potential outpatient facility in Portland. It is a public-private partnership involving Maine Medical Center and Tufts University.

Collins is a Republican and King is an independent.

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Connecticut Supreme Court upholds abolishment of death penalty Thu, 26 May 2016 17:27:30 +0000 HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday upheld its landmark ruling declaring the state’s death penalty unconstitutional and abolishing capital punishment.

The court’s 5-2 decision overturned death sentences imposed on Russell Peeler Jr. and ordered a lower court to impose life in prison without the possibility of release. Peeler had been on death row for ordering the 1999 killings of a woman and her 8-year-old son in Bridgeport. The boy, B.J. Brown, was to testify against Peeler in another murder case.

Justices reconsidered a 4-3 ruling they made in August in the appeal of another death row inmate, Eduardo Santiago. The majority declared capital punishment no longer comported with the state constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and was out of step with contemporary standards of decency.

Last year’s ruling revealed a deep rift in the court, with justices writing concurring and dissenting opinions that included highly unusual criticism of each other.

At issue in both appeals was a 2012 law passed by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democrat-controlled legislature that abolished the death penalty, but only for future murders – leaving 11 men including Peeler and Santiago still facing execution.

The majority in last year’s landmark ruling essentially said it wouldn’t be fair to execute the remaining death row inmates when lawmakers had determined the death penalty was no longer needed for future killers.

The 2012 ban had been passed prospectively because many lawmakers refused to vote for a bill that would spare the death penalty for Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, who were convicted of killing a mother and her two daughters in a highly publicized 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane said prosecutors will now move to get the death row inmates resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Opponents of the death penalty immediately praised Thursday’s ruling.

Sheila Denion, project director for the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, said the decision “takes the prudent step of ending the state’s failed death penalty and the possibility of any future executions.”

The state’s death penalty was criticized by both critics and advocates alike, because state law allowed multiple appeals that virtually assured that no one would be executed for decades. Connecticut’s last execution was of serial killer Michael Ross in 2005, but only after Ross dropped all his appeals.

Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who dissented in last year’s ruling, joined the majority in Thursday’s decision, saying she had to respect the legal precedent set by the court only months earlier.

Malloy, who signed the 2012 law that left death row inmates still facing execution, said in a statement that his opposition to the death penalty arose after many years as a prosecutor, attorney and public servant.

“These are deeply personal and moral issues that we as a society are facing and the court has once again ruled on today,” Malloy said. “Our focus today should not be on those currently sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving family members.”

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Four Navy aviators suffer minor injuries when 2 jet fighters crash Thu, 26 May 2016 16:50:47 +0000 RALEIGH, N.C. – Two Navy jet fighters crashed off the coast of North Carolina during a training mission Thursday, and their four crew members were airlifted to a hospital with minor injuries after being plucked out of the Atlantic Ocean by a commercial fishing vessel and U.S. Coast Guard rescuers, officials said.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters, based in Virginia Beach, crashed about 10:40 a.m. off the coast of Cape Hatteras, following an “in-flight mishap,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tiffani Walker, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Force Atlantic. Walker did not have any further details. Earlier Thursday, the Coast Guard had said the two aircraft collided in the air before crashing.

Two of the aviators were rescued by the crew of the commercial fishing vessel Jamie, and the other two survivors were hoisted out of the water by a Coast Guard helicopter, the Coast Guard said in a statement. A second Coast Guard helicopter picked up the aviators from the fishing vessel and all four survivors were taken to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital.

The sea route is heavily traveled by ships entering and leaving Norfolk, one of the busiest cargo ports on the East Coast.

The four aviators suffered minor injuries but are in “very high spirits,” Lt. Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora told reporters. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said all were “alert and talking” when they were picked up. Videos taken by WAVY-TV show two aviators getting on stretchers as they exited the helicopter and were taken into the hospital. The other two walked into the hospital on their own, the videos show.

“We’re happy to have brought everyone home safely today,” Pecora said.

A safety investigation will be carried out to determine the cause of the accident, said Navy spokesman Ensign Mark Rockwellpate.

The F/A-18 Hornet is an all-weather fighter and attack aircraft that operates in tactical squadrons at stations around the world and from 10 aircraft carriers, the Navy says on its website. The Super Hornet, the newest model, has a longer range, aerial refueling capability and improved survivability and lethality, according to the website.

Each of the planes costs at least $57 million, the Navy says.

The jets that crashed Thursday were performing training exercises and are not currently assigned to an aircraft carrier, Walker said.

Navy officials did not provide details on the extent of the damage the planes sustained.

A rescue helicopter was dispatched from the Coast Guard’s air station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The station’s helicopters perform ocean search-and-rescue operations off North Carolina and Virginia as far east as Bermuda.

Durkin Richer reported from Richmond, Virginia.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 16:35:28 +0000
Pair of startups earn top prizes at Top Gun pitch-off in Maine Thu, 26 May 2016 15:18:05 +0000 A Maine company that developed an app to project public property boundaries into a smart phone camera took home the $120,000 BizSpark prize at the annual Top Gun pitch-off Tuesday.

Nobleboro resident and entrepreneur Chuck Benton of Team AR won the $120,000 in-kind prize from Microsoft for its app using augmented reality technology.

The event, hosted by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development and the University of Maine, marked the graduation of the 2016 class of Top Gun entrepreneurs statewide. Top Gun is a program that combines mentoring with business development instruction. Since its inception in 2009, it has graduated 135 entrepreneurs.

Six participants from the Bangor, Rockport and Portland Top Gun classes also competed for a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by the Maine Technology Institute. Entrepreneurs gave five-minute pitches to a panel of judges, followed by a brief question-and-answer period. Scoring was based on presentation, innovation, scalability and feasibility.

The cash prize winner was Nadir Yildirim and Simin Khosravani of Revolution Research. The company uses technology to develop eco-friendly products for the construction and packaging industries made from locally supplied and bio-based materials.

Catherine Renault, board chair for the Maine center, presented Executive Director Don Gooding, who is stepping down in June, an award for his many accomplishments and dedication to the entrepreneurial community. Anthony Perkins, of Bernstein Shur, received the Compass Award for his many years of service mentoring Top Gun companies.

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Solar-powered airplane pilot takes selfie on flight across U.S. Thu, 26 May 2016 15:14:57 +0000 ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A solar-powered airplane has landed in Pennsylvania, about 17 hours after it took off from the Ohio hometown of America aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 landed at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, the latest stop of its journey around the world. The plane took off from Dayton International Airport just after 4 a.m.

The aircraft traveled from Tulsa International Airport to Dayton last weekend. The plane’s departure from Dayton was delayed from Monday as project officials checked for possible damage after fans that keep the mobile hangar inflated had a power failure.

The plane was expected to make at least one more stop in the United States — in New York — before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe or northern Africa.

The globe-circling voyage began in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China and Japan.

The Solar Impulse 2’s wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night.

Ideal flight speed is about 28 mph, although that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.

The plane had a five-day trip from Japan to Hawaii The crew was forced to stay in Oahu, Hawaii, for nine months after the plane’s battery system sustained heat damage on its trip from Japan.

Solar Impulse 2 then had a three-day trip from Hawaii to California’s Silicon Valley. Since then, it has made trips from northern California to Phoenix, Arizona, then on to Tulsa, Oklahoma, before heading to Ohio.

Project officials say the layovers give the two Swiss pilots — Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg — a chance to swap places and engage with local communities along the way so they can explain the project, which is estimated to cost more than $100 million.

The solar project began in 2002 to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation.

]]> 1, 26 May 2016 11:25:29 +0000
Poliquin changes position again, supports Obama order on LGBT discrimination Thu, 26 May 2016 14:52:01 +0000 Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin forcefully defended his voting record Thursday on a measure prohibiting discrimination against gays and other groups as Democrats accused him of flip-flopping on the issue.

The U.S. House reversed course late Wednesday and approved a measure upholding an executive order that bars discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees by federal contractors. More than 40 Republicans, including Poliquin, helped Democrats power the gay rights measure through, despite the opposition of Republican conservatives who dominate the House.

But Democrats and their congressional candidate, Emily Cain, pounced on Poliquin, who cast the vote after voting against a similar measure on the House floor last week. Poliquin was one of seven Republican lawmakers who switched their votes under pressure from House Republican leaders on the anti-discrimination measure offered by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-New York.

That incident has escalated the political feud between Poliquin and Cain as the issue of LGBT rights grows in prominence nationally ahead of the November election. Poliquin defeated Cain in the 2014 election, putting the 2nd District seat under Republican control for the first time in 20 years.

In an interview Thursday, Poliquin pushed back against the criticism and said he’s been consistent on the issue “since day one.”

“I’ve always been against discrimination against anybody, at any place and any time,” Poliquin said.

Cain, in a Thursday interview, accused Poliquin of trying to “have it both ways” with his votes, which also “undermines the foundation and trust elected officials should be able to be counted on for.”

“Either he is against discrimination and his leadership forced him to take that vote, or it was actually how he felt,” Cain said. “This is yet another example of how Bruce says one thing but does another.”

Maine Democratic Party officials and LGBT advocates piled on as well, holding a news conference Thursday morning outside Poliquin’s Bangor office to push the theme of Poliquin performing a “flip-flop” on the measure.

Maloney’s amendment would prevent government contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and was added last week to a military and defense spending bill.

It was defeated by one vote after House Republican leaders extended the time allowed for voting, during which seven Republican lawmakers, including Poliquin, changed their votes. Democrats loudly protested, saying the seven had been pressured to change their votes.

“There are reports that my arm was twisted to vote a certain way, which is absolutely false,” Poliquin said. “I was there; nobody approached me. Absolutely nobody tried to influence my vote.”

The 223-195 vote Wednesday night reversed last week’s outcome on the gay rights measure. Maloney, an openly gay lawmaker, reintroduced his bill as part of an energy and water spending bill. Republican leaders did not try to pressure colleagues this time, the Associated Press reported.

“There was a lot of confusion on the floor, but I voted exactly the way I intended to vote,” Poliquin said Thursday.

The measure would prohibit agencies funded by the bill to award taxpayer dollars to federal contractors that violate President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“It says you do not take taxpayer dollars and fire people just for being gay,” Maloney told the Associated Press.

Earlier, the House voted 227-192 to block several federal agencies from retaliating against North Carolina over its law requiring transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. That amendment, by Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-North Carolina, came in response to warnings from the Obama administration that North Carolina might lose federal funding because of the law.

The North Carolina law was passed after the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to use restrooms of their chosen gender identity.

Poliquin said that his reason for supporting Maloney’s measure the second time was because it was changed to include language that would also ensure religious organizations were not discriminated against, even though that language was not adopted until after the vote on the Maloney amendment. Poliquin also voted in support of a separate amendment to the same bill, introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, stipulating that government not discriminate against religious organizations or Americans with disabilities.

Maloney told The Washington Post that he did not see his amendment as being in conflict with rights of religious organizations.

“That’s his opinion. He’s wrong,” Poliquin said of Maloney. “If you look at the anti-discrimination laws that we have, they’re very clear. You don’t discriminate against men, women, what sexual preferences you have, what ethnicity you have and so forth. However, if you are a religious organization, you have an exception.”

However, some religious officials who gathered Thursday morning with Maine Democrats took exception to Poliquin’s reasoning, saying religion shouldn’t be used as a cover for discrimination.

“As a pastor and as a gay man, I do not frame this discussion in political terms but in moral terms,” the Rev. Dr. Mark Doty said in a statement released by Maine Democrats. “All American citizens – LGBT included – have the right to feel protected by elected officials and by the legislation they create.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Susan Hunter will remain UMaine president through 2018 Thu, 26 May 2016 14:29:54 +0000 ORONO — The University of Maine System says Susan Hunter will remain president of the flagship campus in Orono through at least the summer 2018.

System Chancellor James Page says the system has extended Hunter’s appointment through June 30 of that year. Hunter became the first woman to serve as UMaine’s president in July 2014, when she took a two-year appointment.

Hunter agreed one year ago that she would remain on the job through June 30, 2017.

She became a full-time faculty member at UMaine in 1991 in the Department of Biological Sciences. She has held numerous positions since, including executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Hunter is paid $250,000 per year.

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