Mayor joins national group backing same-sex marriage

Mayor Michael Brennan announced Tuesday that he has joined Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, a national nonpartisan group of mayors who believe that gay people should be able to marry.

More than 160 mayors have signed a statement advocating for the freedom to marry. Two other Maine mayors have joined the group, Charlotte Warren of Hallowell and Colleen Hilton of Westbrook.

Brennan said in a prepared statement that he will work to bring marriage equality to all Maine families, and he invited municipal leaders to join the coalition.

“Allowing same-sex couples the right to marry enhances our economic competitiveness, improves the lives of families who call Portland home and is simply the right thing to do,” he said.

Rights activist Dow to speak at justice for women event

Unity Dow, an author, human rights activist and the first woman to serve on Botswana’s High Court, will deliver the inaugural Justice for Women Lecture at the University of Maine School of Law next week.

Dow’s lecture, “Juggling Truths – When Justice is a Moving Target,” will be delivered at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Abromson Community Education Center on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine.

The lecture series was established with support from attorney and civic leader Catherine Lee and other donors.

Dow is an advocate for the rights of women and indigenous groups. She was the first woman appointed to the High Court of Botswana, serving from 1998 to 2009. She is the author of four novels and a nonfiction book, “Saturday for Funerals,” about Botswana’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

Mayor Michael Brennan will present a key to the city to Dow during an event at Portland High School at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Dow will also be at a book signing at Longfellow Books from 3 to 5 p.m. on March 28.

The lecture will be free and open to the public, but RSVPs are encouraged because space is limited. Please contact Lexie Moras at [email protected] or 780-4344.

Music hall cancels concert by GZA of Wu Tang Clan

The concert by GZA of Wu Tang Clan, scheduled for March 29 at Port City Music Hall, has been canceled because the performer is starting a European tour.

Port City Music Hall is offering refunds, at the point of purchase, for all tickets sold. All credit card orders will be refunded automatically.

Port City Music Hall has filled the void in its schedule with an 11:30 p.m. concert by Indiana-based dubstep performer DJ Figure. For more information on refunds or the DJ Figure show, go to Portcitymusichall.com or call (888) 512-SHOW.


Bills on fishing shack fees, state march to become law

Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill that prohibits Maine towns from collecting fees for ice fishing shacks.

The bill was introduced after Randolph selectmen voted last year to charge $15 for each smelting shack along the town’s Kennebec River frontage. Smelt shack owners objected. LePage signed the bill Friday.

State law already prohibits municipalities from charging fees on lakes and ponds that are not public water supplies. The bill extends that prohibition to coastal and tidal waters, and water bodies that serve as public water supplies.

LePage also has signed a bill to give Maine an official state march.

“The Dirigo March” was written 51 years ago by Augusta native Leo Pepin, who’s now 87. LePage signed the bill giving the march official status Monday, after the House and Senate passed it unanimously.

With the new law, the score of “The Maine March” will be distributed to high school bands across the state, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.

Also Monday, LePage signed into law a bill that eliminates the requirement to publicly display certain business permits and licenses. Retailers can instead use space to display merchandise and advertise.

The bill does retain the requirement that the license or permit be made available on the premises for inspection.

The Maine Restaurant Association, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and convenience store operators supported the bill.

DHHS reports man missing from group home located

The Department of Health and Human Services says a man who was missing from a group home in Lisbon was later found in Augusta.

Officials say Michael Rizkalla, 54, was reported missing around 9 a.m. Sunday and was found by police in Augusta, about 20 miles away, about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Police said they were helped by members of the community who reported sightings of Rizkalla.

Teen suffered head injuries when hit by car, police say

A 14-year-old girl was taken by helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston with head injuries after being hit by a car during rush hour Monday, police said.

The accident was reported at 5:24 p.m. Augusta police Lt. Chris Massey said the child ran across two lanes of a four-lane highway where the cars were stopped at a red light, and continued into a lane where cars were still going through a green light.

“She was at Dairy Queen with her brother and they were crossing the street to go back to Mobile on the Run store,” Massey said. “He wasn’t injured. She stepped in front of the travel path of the vehicle.”

Massey said he didn’t have the girl’s name. He said the driver was a 56-year-old woman from Augusta.

The girl was conscious before the helicopter took her to Lewiston, Massey said.

Report says more children in Maine living in poverty

A new report on Maine children’s health says the percentage of young children living in poverty rose by 2 percentage points from 2009 to 2010.

The Kids Count Data Book, released Tuesday, says 15,752 Maine children under 5 years old, or 23.5 percent, were living in poverty. That’s up from 14,626, or 21.4 percent, in 2009.

The report also says the percentage of Maine children up to 5 years old served by MaineCare increased from 55.5 percent in fiscal 2010 to 57.4 percent in 2011.

A Kids Count report for each state is released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization. This year’s report looks closely at the effect of educational attainment on Maine students’ ability to get by in an increasingly technology-driven workplace.


Disease lethal to bats found within Acadia National Park

The National Park Service says an ailment that has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States has been discovered in Acadia National Park.

Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele said he’s disappointed that so-called white-nose syndrome has been confirmed. The fungus is harmless to humans but is lethal to bats, which play an important role in healthy ecosystems by managing mosquitoes and other biting insects.

White-nose syndrome was discovered previously elsewhere in Maine. It gets its name because infected bats have white fungus on their muzzles.

Steele said the National Park Service is working with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center to find ways to reduce the spread in Maine’s bat populations.


Two toddlers are hurt in fall from second-story window

Police are investigating to determine how two toddlers fell from a second-story window.

Police say the siblings, a 2-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, were taken to a hospital with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening after falling Monday afternoon.

Capt. Glenn Prescott told the Sun Journal that the children’s parents had put them down for a nap and thought they were sleeping when the accident occurred.


Health care charity group suspects worker stole funds

An organization that raises contributions from private donors to ensure health care for residents of central, eastern and northern Maine believes an employee has embezzled at least $55,000.

Healthcare Charities said Tuesday that it learned through its own internal checks and balances that some charitable gifts were being diverted for personal use.

President Michael Crowley said an employee appears to be responsible for violating the trust of the organization and its donors.

Crowley says the charitable organization has alerted police and is cooperating with investigators. He said it also has enlisted an accounting firm to aid the investigation.


Maine geography bee with 100 competitors is March 30

One hundred students from across Maine will compete in the 2012 Maine National Geographic Bee at the University of Maine at Farmington next week.

Brian Cushing, coordinator of the event, said the daylong competition will be held March 30 at the Olsen Student Center. Competitors in grades 4-8 will have to answer a variety of questions about United States and world geography, such as which city on the Great Lakes has the largest population – Chicago.

The winner will represent Maine in the national competition May 22-24 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.