News – Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel Features news from the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine and Morning Sentinel of Waterville, Maine. Mon, 11 Dec 2017 15:15:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Drunk South Portland woman crashed car into house, tried to flee, police say Mon, 11 Dec 2017 14:11:10 +0000

Veronica Brown

A South Portland woman was charged with drunk driving after she allegedly crashed her car into a house and fled the scene Sunday night.

South Portland police say 31-year-old Veronica Brown lost control of her Chrysler while turning left from Highland Avenue onto Evans Street, crashed through a fence on one property, careered into two parked vehicles and crashed into the front of the home next door.

Witnesses told police the driver attempted to leave the scene in the car, but was unable to move it because of snow. She then got out and ran away, police said.

Officer Mike Armstrong found Brown shoeless and wearing pajamas a short distance away on Nutter Street. She was charged with operating under the influence, operating after suspension and leaving the scene of a crime.

The crash was reported around 9:40 p.m. Sunday.

]]> 0, 11 Dec 2017 09:26:38 +0000
Manhattan subway explosion was ‘attempted terrorist attack,’ mayor says Mon, 11 Dec 2017 13:34:02 +0000 NEW YORK —  A man with a pipe bomb strapped to him set off the crude device in the subway near Times Square on Monday, injuring the suspect and three other people at the height of the morning rush hour.

The man and three others were being treated for non-life-threatening injuries in what the mayor and police labeled an attempted terror attack.

The explosion happened in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The 7:30 a.m. blast caused smoke to fill the passageway, which was crowded with throngs of Monday morning commuters.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill called it an attempted terror attack.

“Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” de Blasio said.

The suspect was identified as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah.

Police respond to a an explosion near Times Square on Monday in New York. Associated Press/Charles Zoeller

Law enforcement officials said he was inspired by the Islamic State group but had apparently not had any direct contact with the group. The officials said he lives in Brooklyn and may be of Bangladeshi descent. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the blast.

Authorities said the bomb was a low-tech explosive device attached to the man with Velcro and plastic ties. They were investigating how it was made.

A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff. A police officer is holding the man’s hands behind his back.

The explosion triggered a massive emergency response by police and firefighters both above and below ground, tangling subway and bus service at the nearby Port Authority bus terminal.

Elrana Peralta, a customer service worker for Greyhound, said she works in the Port Authority terminal complex near where the blast happened, but didn’t hear the explosion.

“All we could hear was the chaos,” she said. “We could hear people yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’”

John Miles, 28, from Vermont, was waiting for a bus to Massachusetts. He also didn’t hear the blast, but saw police react.

“I didn’t know what was going on. Officers were running around. I was freaking out,” he said. There was an announcement that people should take their bags and leave. “They didn’t incite panic. It was fairly orderly.”

Video from above the “Crossroads of the World” showed lines of police and emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, lining the streets and no other vehicle traffic moving.

Everything around the Port Authority area was shut down — a surreal scene during what would ordinarily be a bustling rush hour.

New Jersey Transit buses headed to the Port Authority were diverting to other locations. NJ Transit said buses were taking passengers to Secaucus and Hoboken, where they could take trains into the city.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that PresidentTrump had been briefed on the explosion.

The AP’s Jake Pearson contributed to this story.

This story will be updated.

]]> 0, 11 Dec 2017 10:06:54 +0000
York Hospital considers land swap with town Mon, 11 Dec 2017 13:26:28 +0000 YORK — Officials in York are considering a land transfer deal with York Hospital.

The Portsmouth Herald reports the hospital is continuing talks about purchasing a section of Williams Avenue, near its helipad. Hospital officials say the land would become part of the hospital campus.

In exchange, the hospital would consider transferring a property on York Street to the city. Officials say the town could use the parcel for parking spaces.

]]> 0 Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:26:28 +0000
Court hears OUI cases as accident death toll rises in Maine Mon, 11 Dec 2017 10:00:00 +0000 It was a relatively quiet day in Waterville District Court Tuesday when Judge Andrew Benson called a man named Douglas to the podium and asked how he wanted to plead to a charge of operating under the influence of intoxicants.

A short, older man with dark hair, dressed in a red plaid shirt and blue jeans, Douglas didn’t hesitate.

“Guilty,” he said.

About two dozen men and women sat watching from the wooden benches as Benson asked Douglas if he had had a chance to talk to an attorney for the state about the OUI charge before appearing in the courtroom. He also asked if he understood the charge, but Douglas told Benson he couldn’t hear him and asked him to speak up.

“I’m not half deaf, but pretty near,” he said.

A deputy judicial marshal handed him a hearing device, which he said helped, and the proceeding continued.

On or about Sept. 21 in Rome, according to Benson, police stopped Douglas for operating under the influence. On Tuesday, Benson imposed a $500 fine and a 150-day license suspension on Douglas as recommended by the state, but explained that with surcharges and fees, the fine would be $650. Douglas, who said he was 77, wasn’t thrilled to relinquish his license right then and there to the marshal, but acquiesced.

“I hate to give it to you,” he said. “I’ve had it a long time.”

It had been a while since I visited District Court for arraignment day and decided to drop in and observe. It’s typically a pretty busy place with defendants meeting with a representative of the District Attorney’s Office or attorney-for-the-day before speaking to the judge.

Typically, one doesn’t know what to expect at arraignments, and this day was no different. The men and women waiting to talk to Benson were pretty regular looking and I hadn’t a clue what they were there for.

But as they stepped up, one-by-one, to the microphone, a pattern started to emerge.

Several pleaded guilty to OUI, including a gray-haired, pony-tailed man named Francis who hobbled in with a black cane. He was wearing a knee brace and black leather jacket with an American flag and eagle splayed over the back and at one point said he would be able to pay the fine monthly after his disability check arrived.

Some pleaded not guilty to OUI. A bearded, bespectacled man named Matthew, who nervously cracked his knuckles at the microphone, said he understood the charges, had an attorney and didn’t flinch when Benson told him that there was a possibility that if he were convicted, he could go to jail.

A young man with long dark hair denied a charge of minor consuming liquor. He was ordered to attend a dispositional conference April 12 at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

A soft-spoken woman who looked to be in her 20s pleaded guilty to allowing two minors under her control to possess or consume liquor.

Another young woman pleaded not guilty to OUI, driving to endanger, criminal negligence and endangering the welfare of a child by having a passenger in the vehicle who was under 21. She also was scheduled a dispositional conference in April and was told she was released on personal recognizance bond and could be subject to random search and testing. She asked what that entailed.

“They could stop you, pull you over, come to your house and say, ‘We’re going to search you and test you,'” Benson said. “So don’t have any illegal drugs.”

It was all very orderly, this arraignment day. Benson explained everything carefully and asked each person, whom he addressed respectfully as “sir” or “ma’am,” whether he or she understood this and that.

It occurred to me that it was a pretty tough thing to lose your driver’s license during the holidays and have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines that could be used to buy Christmas presents.

Beyond that, I opined that these were the lucky ones, these regular, respectable-looking people who got caught driving while under the influence and had to face a judge in front of their peers.

Maybe they learned a valuable lesson and wouldn’t do it again. Maybe, just maybe, they dodged a bullet by being stopped before they crashed into a tree and were killed — or killed someone else.

In any case, I thought about how critical it is that, with all the parties and celebrations going on at the holidays, we take heed and not become a statistic. Whether dead or alive.

I wondered how many people statewide are convicted of OUI, so I contacted Kristen Schulze Muszynski, director of communications for the Secretary of State. She said that in 2016, 3,837 people in Maine were convicted of OUI.

I also got in touch with Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, and learned some more frightening statistics.

This year so far, 165 people have died in highway accidents in Maine. In 2014, 131 died and 26 of those driving the vehicles had a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or above. In 2015, 156 died, and 39 had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or above. In 2016, 160 died and 39 were at 0.08 or higher. The average age of those who died last year was 38.

“We could be headed for our most deadly year on the highways since 2007, when we ended with 183, or 2006, when we ended with 188,” McCausland said.

Further, his stats show that last year, there were five Christmas holiday fatalities in Maine.

That’s way too many — and I propose we can do better than that.

In fact, let’s shoot for zero this year.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

]]> 0, 11 Dec 2017 08:03:37 +0000
Maine’s high court weighing comments on limiting public access to digital records Mon, 11 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Maine’s top judge has said she wants the state’s courts to be more open and accessible to the public – including allowing for online access to records the public would otherwise have to view at a courthouse.

“The public deserves electronic access to its government,” Leigh Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, told the Legislature in 2014, when it was considering the Judicial Branch’s request for $15 million from taxpayers to fund an electronic system for keeping court records.

“I can go online from anywhere and find the pending bills, the sponsors and committee assignments, the status of those bills, both in the committee and on the floor, the language of proposed amendments, committee hearing dates, and all written testimony,” Saufley said of the Legislature’s records system. “We seek nothing less for Maine people’s access to justice.”

But soon the court Saufley heads will consider a recommendation that would give lawyers instant access to court documents under the $15 million system, while other Mainers would still have to trek to a courthouse to see the records.

A special task force the court formed to explore how to implement the new system decided that online access to court records should be limited in order to protect individual privacy from those who would misuse personal information. But critics argue that such limits would move Maine in the wrong direction when it comes to transparency in government.

The court will take written comments on the recommendation until Dec. 15 and is expected to schedule a public hearing soon to gather additional feedback. The hearing will offer a final chance for those for and against the recommendation to share their views before the court makes a final decision on implementation.

The Judicial Branch Transparency and Privacy Task Force was made up mostly of lawyers, as well as advocates in the field of domestic and sexual violence and one journalist.

It was created by the court to develop recommendations on the accessibility of digitized court records and propose any necessary changes in state law or court rules.

Its recommendation would allow private attorneys involved in a case, as well as public prosecutors, unfettered access to online records.


But the public would have remote access only to a docket, or a list of the documents in any criminal or civil proceeding that haven’t been sealed by a judge. In order to see or obtain a copy of the entire document in a case, members of the public would have to travel to the courthouse to view the record at a special kiosk, with the aid of a courthouse clerk, who would also charge a fee for any copies of the records, as is current practice.

Advocates for open government contend that if the court adopts the recommendation, millions of dollars in taxpayer funds that were meant to improve public access will instead have been used mostly to benefit the legal profession.

“I likened it to the taxpayers being asked to build an enormously expensive and elegant restaurant and being given a menu of what could be served, but only the lawyers get to dine,” said Judy Meyer, executive editor of the Lewiston Sun Journal and a member of the Legislature’s Right-to-Know Advisory Committee. “And we foot the bill.”

The task force was established in March, held a series of meetings and made its final recommendations in September.

Mal Leary, a political reporter for Maine Public who served on the panel, said the recommendation seems to betray the vision of a more accessible and transparent court system laid out by Saufley in her 2014 address, and it also runs counter to the federal government’s practice of making public court records available online.

In a dissenting report to the task force recommendation, Leary points to Saufley’s words and writes, “What I find most disturbing is the failure to meet the goals set by the Judicial branch itself when it convinced the legislature to authorize the Government Facilities authority to issue bonds to build the electronic records infrastructure.”

In her 2014 remarks to the Legislature, Saufley detailed the limitations of the state’s paper-based records system, including the difficulty of extracting aggregate data to inform policy decisions on key issues like domestic violence.

“You and the media have asked us to tell you how many domestic violence criminal assault charges actually result in convictions,” Saufley said to lawmakers. “It is a straightforward question. Unfortunately, it is one that we simply cannot answer without a squadron of volunteers to look at every paper file related to assault charges. And some case types, such as mental health proceedings, are not even in the database at all.”

More frustrating, Saufley said, was the lack of easily accessible data for those with cases pending before the courts.

“If you have a case pending in the Maine courts, you cannot get the schedule online, you cannot see the filings from a website, you cannot get electronic access to the judge’s rulings,” she said.

“If the judge has entered an order in your case, you or your lawyer must drive to the courthouse or wait for it to arrive in the mail. This antiquated system makes retaining legal assistance more expensive. The public deserves better.”

The Legislature agreed to fund the $15 million system, and in December 2016 state officials signed a contract with Tyler Technologies to digitize all paper records for Maine District, Superior and Supreme Judicial courts.

But a majority of the 21-member task force – which included 15 practicing attorneys or judges – took a different view of public access to the new system. The panel voted nearly unanimously for a docket-only approach, in which the online file will simply confirm that a case exists and list any associated documents. To see those documents, a person would have to travel to a courthouse and read them at a kiosk.


The task force embraced arguments that requiring the public to go to the courthouse will weed out people with nefarious intentions who could sit at home and harvest personal information disclosed in court filings. The panel pointed to cases where online court records in other states, such as Florida and Texas, have led to the inadvertent disclosure of private information, such as a person’s Social Security number, for example.

In a concurring opinion with the task force recommendation, task force member and attorney Peter Guffin writes that he doesn’t believe the recommendations go far enough to protect privacy.

“It is widely acknowledged that, up until now, paper case records maintained by the Maine state courts have been difficult to access,” he writes. “With the Judicial Branch’s move to the digital world, however, court records in Maine will be in electronic form, resulting in increased accessibility to the public. Personal information in those records, once protected by the practical difficulties of gaining access to the records, could thus become increasingly less obscure.”

Guffin contends the courts should “recreate in the digital world the ‘practical obscurity’ that existed in the world of paper court records.”

For lawyers, the new system is comparable to the electronic system long used by the federal courts. Cases can be initiated and motions filed remotely at any time and users can access case files online. It also will be used for scheduling and to track bail, warrants and protection orders.

Sig Schutz, an attorney for the Portland Press Herald and other media in Maine, said the task force’s recommendations are a troublesome turn.

“We don’t do justice in secret,” Schutz said. “That’s just something we abhor in this country – in Maine and in the U.S.”

Open court proceedings and records are a hallmark of American democracy, Schutz said. And while the recommendation does not suggest that court proceedings or records be made secret, it does make access to those records and proceedings more difficult when it could make it far easier, Schutz said.

“The public does not benefit from a secret court system, operating in obscurity, with meaningful access limited only to persons deemed worthy of finding out what’s going on,” Schutz wrote in a testimony opposing the task force’s recommendation. “In the long run, secrecy is corrosive to the justice system.”

Schutz also said there is no substantial evidence to suggest privacy rights have been violated in any serious way in states that do allow online records or in the federal system, which has been in place for nearly two decades. Schutz said most of the scenarios envisioned by the task force are “what if” situations.

“There really is no evidence of any sort of misuse of the records where any tangible real harm has been done,” Schutz said.

He noted that access to online court records usually requires a user to register and pay for copies of records with a credit card, which creates a digital record of who has accessed the system. With the federal system, users must register and then pay 10 cents per page for records they download, although the maximum charge is capped at $3 per document.


“It’s not a simple Google search and you can get all these documents,” Schutz said.

The panel’s recommendation echoes a national trend to limit public access to government and records.

In April, the Council for Court Excellence, a nonpartisan civic organization in Washington, D.C., polled state courts about electronic access to court records and found that 18 states and the District of Columbia had adopted a docket-only system, while at least 12 states said they provided court case results, such as opinions, orders and judgments.

Jennifer Nelson, an attorney with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that works to protect the First Amendment rights of the media, said the committee will file comments in opposition to the task force recommendation.

“The public’s right to access online court records should be the same as that which can be reviewed in a courthouse,” Nelson, the committee’s Stanton Foundation media litigation fellow, said. “Our position is that more records should be made available (online in Maine) than what the task force is recommending. We really don’t believe there was enough thoughtfulness put into how the public can benefit from (an) online system that allows for more access.”


]]> 0 Chief Justice Leigh Saufley asked lawmakers to approve funding for more judges Tuesday.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 20:22:49 +0000
Simeon Booker, crusading African-American writer, dies at 99 Mon, 11 Dec 2017 04:13:47 +0000 The photographs stunned the country: A 14-year-old boy dead in a coffin, his head crushed, an eye gouged, his body disfigured beyond recognition from an agony in which he was beaten, shot, tied with barbed wire to a weight and submerged in the Tallahatchie River of Mississippi.

The young man was Emmett Till. His murder in 1955 – punishment for the transgression of whistling at or otherwise offending a white woman – became the most infamous of the thousands of lynchings visited upon African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. Till’s death galvanized the civil rights movement, but only after Simeon Booker helped deliver the story to a national audience.

Booker, the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of Jet and Ebony magazines for five decades, died Dec. 10 at an assisted-living community in Solomons, Maryland. He was 99 and had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia, said his wife, Carol Booker.

Few reporters risked more to chronicle the civil rights movement than Booker. He was the first full-time black reporter for The Washington Post, serving on the staff for two years before joining the Johnson Publishing Co. to write for Jet, a weekly, and Ebony, a monthly modeled on Life magazine, in 1954.

From home bases in Chicago and later in Washington, Booker ventured into the South and sent back dispatches that reached black readers across the United States. He was in Chicago, Till’s hometown, when he heard that the young man had disappeared in Money, Mississippi.

Booker instinctively went to the home of the young man’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, and earned her trust as she moved through her terror and then grief. He was with her at the funeral home where, over the objections of others, she insisted that the casket bearing her son’s mutilated corpse be opened. Booker described the scene in Jet:

“Her face wet with tears, she leaned over the body, just removed from a rubber bag in a Chicago funeral home, and cried out, ‘Darling, you have not died in vain. Your life has been sacrificed for something.’”

No mainstream news outlets published the images of Till’s body, but their appearance in Jet and other African-American publications helped make the Till murder “the first great media event of the civil rights movement,” historian David Halberstam wrote in his book “The Fifties.”

As one of the few black reporters in Washington, Booker wrote a column for Jet called Ticker Tape U.S.A. and led editorial coverage of the executive and legislative branches at a time when black reporters were largely excluded from news events as from everyday life. He wrote that he was “never prouder of Jet’s role in any story” than in 1961, when he helped cover a Freedom Ride from Washington to New Orleans.

A mob firebombed one of the buses in Anniston, Alabama. Thugs forced their way aboard Booker’s coach and beat the protesters. In Birmingham, Alabama, Ku Klux Klansmen waited to beat them again.

With help from U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Booker and the Freedom Riders were eventually flown to safety. But such demonstrations continued, and integration was enforced in interstate travel.

Simeon Saunders Booker Jr. was born Aug. 27, 1918, in Baltimore, where his father, a Baptist minister, was the director of a YMCA for blacks.

“From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer,” Mr. Booker told the Vindicator, a Youngstown newspaper. “Teaching and preaching were the best advances for blacks at the time. But I wanted to write.”

He received an English degree in 1942 from Virginia Union University, then began his career at the Baltimore Afro-American. He later joined the Cleveland Call and Post, also an African-American publication, where he won a Newspaper Guild Award for a series covering slum housing – and where he was fired for trying to unionize the staff.

In 1950, he received a prestigious Nieman Foundation fellowship at Harvard University.

After the Nieman, Booker wrote to numerous newspapers seeking employment. “The only one to answer me,” he told The Post years later, “was Phil Graham of The Washington Post.”

]]> 0 decades, Simeon Booker used his journalism to advance the cause of African Americans.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 23:20:18 +0000
Alabama Republican senator reiterates opposition to Moore Mon, 11 Dec 2017 03:27:21 +0000 MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In his sternest rebuke yet, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said repeatedly Sunday his state can “do better” than electing fellow Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate, making clear that a write-in candidate was far preferable to a man accused of sexual misconduct.

Days before the pivotal race, Shelby, who is Alabama’s senior senator, said he had already cast an absentee ballot for another, unspecified Republican, even as other prominent state Republicans fell in line behind Moore.

Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in the special election Tuesday to replace Jeff Sessions, now the U.S. attorney general.

“I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name. And I think a lot of people could do that,” Shelby told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The state of Alabama deserves better,” he said.

“There’s a lot of smoke,” Shelby said of Moore and his accusers. “Got to be some fire somewhere.”

The accusations against Moore have left many Republican voters and leaders in a quandary. Voters face the decision of whether to vote for Moore, accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers decades ago when he was a county prosecutor, or sending Jones to Washington, which would narrow the party’s already precarious majority in the Senate.

They also could write in a name on their ballots or simply stay home. Meanwhile, most Republican politicians in the state must run for re-election next year – where they will face Moore’s enthusiastic voting base at the polls.

Shelby said allegations that Moore had molested a 14-year-girl in particular were a “tipping point” in disqualifying him. His latest comments cast fresh doubt on a former judge that President Trump and most Republican leaders in Alabama are backing to help maintain the party’s narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate.


Shelby’s outspokenness against a man who could become his colleague was the exception rather than the rule.

“I have stated both publicly and privately over the last month that unless these allegations were proven to be true I would continue to plan to vote for the Republican nominee, Judge Roy Moore,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. “I have already cast my absentee ballot and I voted for Judge Moore.”

The AP tried to find out how Republican leaders from Alabama plan to vote. Most officeholders or their staffs responded, while others have publicly stated their plans during public appearances or to other media outlets.

However, several officeholders did not respond to calls, emails or texts from the AP. They include U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, Mike Rogers and Gary Palmer, as well as state Treasurer Young Boozer and state House Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

State officeholders who said they intended to vote for Moore often cited the need to keep the seat in Republican hands.

In addition to Merrill, others who plan to vote for Moore include Gov. Kay Ivey; Attorney General Steve Marshall; state Auditor Jim Zeigler; Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan; state Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh; and Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, who previously led the state Republican Party. Also voting for Moore are current state party head Terry Lathan and U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks of Huntsville and Robert Aderholt of Haleyville.

Shelby’s decision has played prominently in Jones ads pointing out Republicans who are not voting for their party’s nominee.

On Sunday, Shelby acknowledged that if Moore is elected, he would probably have to be seated in the Senate but that an Ethics Committee investigation was already been contemplated to remove him. “I think that the Senate has to look at who is fit to serve in the Senate,” he said.

CNN reported last month that U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne said he will vote Republican and that he does not cast write-in votes. In a statement to the AP, Byrne said it is up to voters to decide.

“Some serious allegations have been made and Judge Moore has vehemently denied them. Frankly, I don’t think the people of Alabama want me, any national politician, or the national news media telling them what to think or how to vote,” Byrne said in the statement. “The decision is ultimately up to the people of Alabama to evaluate the information they have before them and make an informed decision. We must respect the voters’ decision.”

Sen. Luther Strange, who lost to Moore in the Republican primary, did not respond to a request for comment from AP, but told The Washington Post recently that the election is up to voters.

“I’m staying out of it now. I think everybody knows how I feel about Judge Moore. We made our case and the voters made a different decision,” Strange told the newspaper in a video on its website.

Sessions, who resigned from the Senate to join the Trump administration, declined to say how he would vote. Moore and Jones are competing for his old job.

As ACA deadline nears, unaffordability looms

Many families make too much to qualify for tax credits, but not enough to pay for rising premiums.


“There have been some ads that may have suggested I endorsed a candidate, that is not so,” Sessions said. “I believe that the people of Alabama will make their own decision.”

State party loyalty rules could prohibit a Republican politician, or someone who aspires to be one, from publicly backing Moore’s opponent. The rule says anyone who openly supports another party’s nominee over a Republican could be barred from running as a Republican in the future.

Ivey became governor earlier this year after Robert Bentley resigned amid a sex scandal involving a much younger female political aide. When reached by the AP, Bentley declined to say who he is voting for Tuesday.

Ivey said last month that she has no reason to disbelieve the women who have accused Moore and is bothered by their allegations. But Ivey, who plans to run for governor in 2018, said she will vote for Moore anyway for the sake of Republican power in Congress. Her office did not respond to a request for an updated comment.

]]> 0 Richard Shelby again makes it clear that he doesn't want to serve with Roy Moore.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:31:57 +0000
As ACA deadline nears, unaffordability looms Mon, 11 Dec 2017 03:02:37 +0000 Margaret Leatherwood has eight choices for health insurance next year but no good options.

The cheapest individual coverage available in her market would eat up nearly a quarter of the income her husband brings home from the oilfields.

The Bryson, Texas, couple makes too much to qualify for Affordable Care Act tax credits that help people buy coverage. But they don’t make enough to comfortably afford insurance on their own, even though Paul Leatherwood works seven days a week.

“I hate to put it like this, but it sucks,” said Margaret Leatherwood, who stays at home and takes care of her grandchildren.

This largely middle-class crowd of shoppers is struggling to stay insured. They’ve weathered years of price hikes and shrinking insurance choices with no help. Faced with more price increases for next year, they’re mulling options outside insurance or skipping coverage entirely – a decision that could lead to a fine for remaining uninsured and huge bills if an emergency hits.

The sign-up period for 2018 coverage closes on Friday in most states, meaning shoppers have only a few more days to find something that squeezes into their budgets.

“I kind of cringe when I am meeting with those clients because I don’t have a solution for them,” said Kelly Rector, a Missouri-based insurance agent.

The ACA helped chop the U.S. uninsured population 41 percent to 28.8 million people earlier this year from 48.6 million in 2010, when it became law, according to the latest government figures.

The law expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor and created health insurance marketplaces where people can use income-based tax credits to buy a single or family individual insurance plan if they don’t get coverage through work. Those subsidies cover part or all of the bill, capping insurance costs at a percentage of income for those who are eligible. That shields recipients from price hikes of 20 percent or more that have hit many markets.

But that help stops abruptly for people making four times the federal poverty level or more – around $48,000 for an individual and more than $98,000 for a family of four.

Of the roughly 15 million people who bought ACA-compliant individual insurance for this year, nearly 7 million had no tax credit help, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Meanwhile, the uninsured rate among adults who make too much to qualify for help buying coverage jumped to 5 percent this year from 2 percent in 2016, according to The Commonwealth Fund.

Brokers and health care researchers expect that to climb again, especially for people with income levels close to the cutoff for federal help. “It’s not going to be like an on-off switch where prices get too high and nobody buys coverage,” said Sherry Glied of New York University. “It’s more like a drip, drip, drip.”

The vulnerable population includes the self-employed, small business owners and those close to qualifying for the Medicare program that covers people age 65 and over.

These customers can face monthly bills that climb past $2,000 for a family plan and then a big deductible before most coverage starts. Plus fewer markets this year have insurance that comes with a health savings account, which lets people save for medical expenses before taxes.

Leslie Glogau said of some of her customers in the Orlando, Florida: “People just don’t know which way to turn.”

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:02:37 +0000
Trump’s impact unclear in election that’s all about the embattled Moore Mon, 11 Dec 2017 02:53:04 +0000 BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — President Trump has jumped into a contentious Senate race here in recent days, supporting embattled Republican Roy Moore in an election that neared the finish line Sunday under the glare of a national spotlight.

Trump’s 11th-hour imprint was splashed across the front pages of the state’s biggest newspapers over the weekend, as he championed Moore at a rally across the state border with Florida, recorded a phone call urging voters to vote Republican and branded Moore’s Democratic opponent a “Pelosi/Schumer Liberal Democrat” to his more than 44 million followers on Twitter.

But even as Trump has remained popular among Republican voters in this staunchly conservative state – and a troubling figure to many Democrats – it was unclear as the campaigns honed their closing arguments over the weekend how much impact the president would have in a race that has become all about Moore.

A long-polarizing figure, Moore’s reputation for controversy grew last month after The Washington Post published the accounts of four women who said Moore made advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his 30s. One of the accusers said she was 14 at the time.

Several voters said in brief interviews on Sunday that Trump was not a leading factor in their decision. Democrats said their vote reflected their protest of Moore’s positions and controversies, while Republicans said they admire Moore for weathering accusations they believe are false, for his conservatism and for refusing to give into the Republican establishment.

In Blount County, where Trump won nearly 90 percent of vote last year, several Republicans running errands and having lunch said that they had decided to vote for Moore long before Trump told them to do so – and despite the published reports.

“I think the voters have basically made their minds up because they see through this garbage,” said David Clevenger, 61, a Moore supporter who also voted for Trump last year, and who said he does not believe the women who have accused Moore. Asked what impact Trump’s endorsement will make at this point, he shook his head and said: “None.”

His wife of more than 40 years, Teresa Clevenger, agreed and added: “We believe in thinking for ourselves.”

More than 35 miles southwest in Democrat-heavy Birmingham, Chris and Debbie Soniat, a married couple who have been volunteering for Jones, said in an interview that their vote is about stopping Moore than it is about stopping Trump.

“In a way, Roy Moore is just his own, weird – I mean, I think he would institute sort of his own version of Sharia law if he had he the chance, you know?” said Chris Soniat, 68, a self-identified independent. “Banning homosexuality. Banning Muslims from participating.”

“To me, he represents the worst of the values of the Old South,” said Debbie Soniat, speaking of Moore.

The 65-year-old nurse, a Democrat, said the outcome of the 2016 election has spurred her to be more politically active. She traveled to Washington for the Women’s March with her daughter and is trying to stay active in politics.

She said she is worried that Trump’s last-minute push is helping Moore’s chances.

“I’m afraid it is,” she said.


Yet Trump’s support has been qualified. While the president has made a big push for Moore, he has done so from afar – avoiding joint photo ops or other visuals that could haunt Trump if Moore loses. Trump appears to be setting himself up to claim credit if Moore wins while allowing himself to claim some distance if he loses.

With just two days left until Tuesday’s election, Jones and Moore took sharply different approaches. Moore stayed off the campaign trail while Jones barnstormed the state with an entourage of high-profile African-American surrogates.

In Birmingham, Jones addressed supporters alongside Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a potential 2020 presidential candidate. They did not mention Trump in their pitch inside a packed campaign office, where the smell of pizza wafted through the air and organizers geared up for a busy afternoon of phone calls and canvassing.

Instead, they sought to hit aspirational notes about Alabama putting its best foot forward.

“Don’t let anyone tell you this is an election of choices to what Alabama wants to be. It is not that. We know who we are, Alabama,” said Jones. “This is an election to tell the world who we are.”

Booker called the race one of “the most consequential elections” of his lifetime and took an implicit dig at Moore.

“Please, I’m from Jersey,” said Booker. “We definitely don’t want some people just singling out a few folks on the ‘Jersey Shore’ TV show and thinking that’s my entire state. No, there is goodness and decency and mercy and love here.”

When a reporter asked Jones afterward about Trump’s recent criticism of him, Jones avoided engaging with the president – much as he has throughout the campaign.

“I don’t have a message to President Trump,” Jones said, before quickly pivoting to other topics. It’s been a strategy of necessity in a state that leans far to the right and where a Democratic upset is possible only by winning an ample share of crossover Republicans.


In a state where ideological conservatism and passionate opposition to abortion define the Republican Party, many of those Republican voters are expected to remain out of reach to Jones, who supports abortion rights.

Trump has not been shy about picking a fight. He has repeatedly branded Jones as an ally of polarizing national Democratic figures including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

If Jones wins on Tuesday, the party’s Senate majority would narrow to 51-49, making the already difficult task of shepherding a legislative agenda even more difficult for Trump.

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said Trump recorded a call supporting Moore on Saturday. On Friday, Trump touted Moore at a rally in Pensacola, Florida. His appearance was widely covered by Alabama news outlets.

The Moore campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the recorded calls.

Moore has eagerly embraced Trump’s last-minute campaign on his behalf and has cast himself as a natural ally of the president who will go to go to Washington and immediately champion his agenda.

The former judge seemed keen on letting Trump lead the way for him down the stretch. Moore did not host any publicly announced events over the weekend, and his tweets have pertained almost exclusively to the president’s support.

Senate Republican leaders have called on Moore to drop out of the race in the wake of a series of accusations that Moore, now 70, aggressively pursued teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Moore has denied the accusations and said in an interview with a local television station over the weekend that the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct were engaged in “ritual defamation” against him.

“I do not know them. I had no encounter with them. I have never molested anyone,” Moore said. “When I saw the pictures on the advertisements of my opponent, I did not recognize any of these people.”

Moore has spoken inconsistently about the allegations against him, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity in a radio interview last month that he may have dated young girls years ago – with parental permission – but that he did not recall dating any of the women who had accused him of making unwanted advances when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. He said in that interview that he knew two of the women when they were teens, and described each as a “good girl.”

Moore said a victory for him would end the story.

“I’ve stood up for moral values, so they’re attacking me in that way,” he said. “When this race is over, on the 12th of December, it will be over.”


While reporting a story in Alabama about supporters of Moore’s Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard that Moore allegedly had sought relationships with teenage girls. Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed four women. All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore. The women said they did not know one another.

Senate Republican leaders have been grappling with difficult questions about what to do if Moore is elected on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that the Senate Ethics Committee – a panel of three Republican and three Democratic senators – could swiftly begin investigating the accusations against Moore.

Trump’s involvement in the campaign seems to have followed the mood in the state as documented through polling and media reports.

In the Republican primary, Trump endorsed Moore’s rival, Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed by the governor to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump quickly endorsed and embraced Moore once he became the nominee – but then authorized the Republican National Committee to pull funding from the race when accusations emerged last month.

Trump refused to answer any questions about Moore, although the White House did not withdraw his endorsement. After Moore stayed in the race and polls tightened, Trump started attacking Jones – and then, after testing the waters, started once again directly telling voters to vote for him. He also directed the RNC to jump back in.

“A big contingent of very enthusiastic Roy Moore fans at the rally last night,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “We can’t have a Pelosi/Schumer Liberal Democrat, Jones, in that important Alabama Senate seat. Need your vote to Make America Great Again! Jones will always vote against what we must do for our Country.”

]]> 0 MooreSun, 10 Dec 2017 22:21:58 +0000
Cape Elizabeth planners seek legal advice before ruling on cell tower Mon, 11 Dec 2017 02:26:39 +0000 CAPE ELIZABETH — The Planning Board is seeking legal clarification before it decides whether a third telecommunications tower should be allowed along Strout Road.

At issue is to what extent owners can be compelled to provide space on existing towers to competing service providers.

Strout Trusts and Tower Specialists want to build the 180-foot tower at 14 Strout Road. One other tower already exists on the property and one is being built after the Strouts received town approval in September to replace an existing 180-foot tower and four shorter towers with the single tower.

Another tower, at the southern end of the property, is owned by Crown Castle Towers, a Virginia-based wireless infrastructure provider. It will be removed in 2019, since the company plans to move equipment to a new, 180-foot monopole tower on the neighboring Jordan property at 19 Wells Road.

If the application for the third 180-foot tower is submitted and approved, the Strout property would have three 180-foot towers, which is in the property site plan. But before the board views an official application from the Strouts, members asked to be provided with proof that a third tower is necessary and would improve coverage to nearby neighborhoods.

Justin Strout told planners in a Dec. 5 workshop there is a “sweet spot” on telecommunication towers that provides the best coverage, and that carriers will pay more to have their equipment in this position.

“(A third tower) gives optimal cell coverage and gives me a financial advantage,” he said.

Vice Chairman Joseph Chalat said the board will seek an interpretation of how the town’s “co-location” requirement – placement of multiple carriers on a single tower – comes into play.

The ordinance says tower owners and users should allow “other commercial wireless telecommunication service providers using functionally compatible technology to co-locate antennas, equipment and facilities on a tower and site.”

In order to ensure co-location, the ordinance says the town may “require co-location on a tower in order to prevent the need for … providers to build new towers (and) may deny an application for a tower because of inadequate provisions and/or arrangements for co-location.”

“Until a few weeks ago,” Strout said, “the way I understood it was, you have one tower and everybody co-located on it. But it seems like the interpretation is different. We have multiple customers that would love to be at 180 feet. … We’d like to do this so we can put everybody that wants to be at the top.”

Board member Jonathan Sahrbeck said he wants to make sure the law is being followed.

“The whole idea of co-location is so we don’t have towers all over the place,” Sahrbeck said.

Strout said he has agreed to co-location, if someone would like to be on the tower.

The board told Strout to come back to a workshop with detailed maps. Further discussion was tabled until members can hear from Town Attorney John Wall, which they expect to happen by Tuesday.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said she doesn’t know how the Strouts would be able to meet standards of the ordinance without demonstrating a need for the tower.

“It’s clear that you have to show need,” O’Meara said. “You already got approval for a 180-foot tower and now, you kind of need to show why you need another one and you need to show that you don’t have enough capacity on the first one.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be contacted at 781-3661, ext. 183, or at:

Twitter: JocelynVanSaun

]]> 0, 11 Dec 2017 06:55:27 +0000
Monster wildfires spread north; hundreds more flee in California Mon, 11 Dec 2017 02:10:47 +0000 VENTURA, Calif. — Monster fires in Southern California raged for a seventh day on Sunday, edging into Santa Barbara County while leaving residents of neighboring Ventura County to deal with the aftermath of a historic inferno.

As hundreds fled for safety in Santa Barbara County as the fires spread north, residents in Ventura County sifted through the rubble of what was once their homes. Thousands of other evacuees remained unable to return to their neighborhoods, leaving them to wonder what became of them.

Despite the widespread loss and uncertainty, residents and officials expressed relief and solidarity Sunday, with many saying the devastating fires have helped underscore what is most important in life.

“Everyone has been – to even say ‘amazing,’ that doesn’t even – the words cannot even come to mind about what to say about the gratitude that we have,” said Tracee Bird, who lost her home. “This is the feeling that’s all over Ventura right now, is this whole thing of people coming together.”

The Ventura Police Department on Sunday shuttled people to their homes and allowed them just 45 minutes to retrieve belongings before taking them back to the starting point in the parking lot of Temple Beth Torah in Ventura. Some complained that it has been difficult to get information about the status of their homes and how long they’ll be in temporary housing.

“Everything is hearsay because one person will tell you one thing, and another will tell you another,” said Rita Horn, while riding with a vanload of people after filling some bags with clothing. “I just don’t know what to believe.”

As of Sunday afternoon, Cal Fire couldn’t estimate when people might be able to start moving back.

“As long as the areas are a continued threat, we are going to leave those evacuation orders in place, for safety of life,” said Charles Esseling, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. “We understand people are antsy and want to get back in there, but we don’t want any issues or injuries.”


The Thomas Fire, in a coastal region northwest of Los Angeles, remained the largest active wildfire in the state, having burned through nearly 170,000 acres and taking with it more than 500 buildings and at least one life.

Farther north, residents of Santa Barbara County were facing the wrath of the advancing fire. About 85,000 households were without power, and authorities were ordering people in the beach communities of Carpinteria and Montecito to evacuate.

Over the weekend, National Weather Service meteorologist Rich Thompson warned Ventura residents at a town hall meeting that conditions are still combustible. Though the winds that have been stoking the fire are expected to ease up some during the week, he said, the air will remain warm and dry. He said next weekend could see another Santa Ana wind event, which could lead to the same dangerous conditions Southern California experienced last week.

“All the way through next week, there is going to be potential for elevated, even critical, fire conditions to continue across Ventura County,” he said.


In the Hidden Valley neighborhood, a hilly enclave in southeastern Ventura County, mask-wearing residents could be seen clutching bags of belongings during their 45-minute window to grab and go.

When Bill and Jan Coultas arrived at their home on Viewcrest Drive, they found an injured baby coyote in their front yard, singed from the flames.

“I tried to call animal control, but I never did get through to them,” said Bill Coultas, 71. “It just moved.”

Another neighbor, 27-year-old Kristal Santos, recently moved in with her cousin, Roxie Allen, after having been displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“I’m like, really?” she said. “I have a friend who told me, ‘Don’t come here, you’ll bring an earthquake.’ ”

Tracee Bird’s home caught fire live on television. She and her husband Scott didn’t see it; they were on the freeway, trying to get out of town. But a friend called, and they raced back to see their burning house.

Firefighters reluctantly allowed Tracee to capture the awful moment on video.

She lamented on TV that she hadn’t had time to salvage her Oakland Raiders jersey that bore No. 52 for her favorite player, Khalil Mack.

]]> 0 Barbara County Fire Department personnel knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road in Carpinteria, Calif. A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California's largest wildfire sent residents fleeing.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:51:57 +0000
South Carolina serial killer sends chilling note alluding to more bodies Mon, 11 Dec 2017 01:56:05 +0000 With six words penned to his local newspaper, serial killer Todd Kohlhepp gave voice to the fears of investigators and anyone else worried that a missing loved one was killed by South Carolina’s infamous murderer:

“Yes there is more than seven.”

The sentence was a chilling part of a prison letter Kohlhepp sent to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal last week – more than a year after a woman who had been summoned to Kohlhepp’s property to clean was found chained by the neck inside a large storage container.

The investigation led authorities to identify seven other victims. Three had also been lured to the property under cleaning gig pretenses. Their bodies were buried in shallow graves. Another four were victims of a quadruple murder that hadn’t been solved for 13 years.

In May, Kohlhepp pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to seven lifetimes in prison, plus 60 years.

But he apparently wants people to know – or at least wonder – about other possible victims.

“I tried to tell investigators and I did tell FBI, but it was blown off,” he told the Herald-Journal.

It’s plausible that there could be more murder victims. Some of Kohlhepp’s previous murders had been unsolved for more than a decade. Authorities told the media they confiscated an “arsenal” of weapons from the Woodruff property where the woman was found and at Kohlhepp’s home 10 miles away.

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:02:46 +0000
Maine ski resorts touting new glades, lifts, trails and snowmaking prowess Mon, 11 Dec 2017 01:38:18 +0000 Black Mountain’s Angry Beavers created four new glades. Sugarloaf spent $250,000 on a pair of snow machines that open up back-country terrain for an experience it says can’t be found anywhere east of Michigan.

Sunday River Resort skiers are already riding its first new lift in nine years and its Christmas week bookings are up 44 percent over this time last year.

Another ski season’s here with great investment – $4.7 million at Sunday River alone – one great unknown (Where art thou, Saddleback?) and the industry’s trademark optimism.

It’s the first time in Greg Sweetser’s memory that two Nordic centers and two Alpine slopes were open and skiing at the end of November in Maine.

“That’s an optimistic sign and gotten buzz among skiers, ‘Wow, there’s both cross-country and downhill already,’” said Sweetser, executive director of the Ski Maine Association.

He’s watching the jet stream, talking to meteorologists, monitoring snowpack in Canada and hoping Farmers’ Almanac got its predictions right.

Portland received 95.2 inches last winter, more than 50 percent above the historical average. That led to a good season for most resorts and just under 1.3 million skier visits, the average for the past three years, Sweetser said.

Ski Maine estimates skiing’s economic impact at $300 million. The Maine Office of Tourism is looking to up that this winter by more than doubling the outreach of its advertising, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Geiger.

Geiger said the office is looking “to build on momentum.” Winter visits to Maine have increased 7 percent each of the past five years. One-third of those visitors are looking to head outside.

What they’ll find and when they’ll find it at ski resorts around western Maine:


Black Mountain of Maine, Rumford

Target opening: Dec. 26

Look for: Four new glades, new snowmaking on the lower half of the Allagash Trail, a repainted lodge and newly town-paved roads leading to and from the mountain.

Volunteers known as Angry Beavers spent more than 500 hours over the summer creating the new glades and cleaning up existing ones, according to spokeswoman Deanna Kersey.

Two trails, Moxie and Bagaduce, were also de-stumped. The nonprofit mountain has more than 50 glades and trails at capacity. Glades in particular have been getting more popular there for cross-country skiers.

“(Last year) we got tons of snow and we saw a lot of new people,” Kersey said. “We saw a lot of people who had been skiing at Saddleback previously and didn’t have a home to go to. We were really happy to welcome those families in. We gained a lot of their ski patrols … so we’re very optimistic this season.”


Titcomb Mountain, Farmington

Target opening: Dec. 16

Look for: Improved snowmaking and vastly improved parking after construction crews dug up a foot of clay throughout the main lot.

“They’ve improved the parking lot 100-times-fold,” said Frank Chin, assistant manager at the nonprofit, volunteer-run mountain. He hopes to see the ski hill open with part of the main trail and part of the bunny slope. Titcomb has 20 trails at capacity.

“Last year was just skiing, skiing, skiing, both family (and) races,” Chin said. “The weather is 80 percent of it – we just had so much snow here.”


Lost Valley Ski Area, Auburn

Target opening: Dec. 15

Look for: Three new trails, a new kitchen, new rental equipment and the addition of Lost Valley Brewing.

John Herrick, its new general manager, came on this fall.

“This year we focused on hiring experienced people. We’ve got a brand-new crew, top to bottom,” Herrick said. “My new mountain manager is from Copper Mountain out in Colorado. I just picked up a new lift supervisor from Okemo, which is in Vermont. We’re getting some experienced talent to streamline the processes.”

Strong early-season pass sales have him hoping skiership is up this winter on its 18 trails.

The ski area plans an open house/launch party on Dec. 14.

“There’s a lot of curious people walking around; they want to check out improvements,” Herrick said. “(It’s) just like a celebration to get us going”


Shawnee Peak, Bridgton

Target opening: Dec. 16

Look for: A new Magic Carpet lift in its beginner area, the first full season of the mountain’s new Winch Cat and a lot of celebrating its 80th anniversary.

The Winch Cat, a groomer with a cable to anchor itself, came online at the end of last winter, according to Rachael Wilkinson, marketing director.

“The winch allows you to pull from all kinds of different directions, so that you can move a lot more snow uphill and side to side. It just helps with grooming a lot of the steeper trails or trickier trails,” she said. “The outside crew is really very excited.”

Skiers make a run at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton last year. The mountain, celebrating its 80th anniversary, has a new “Magic Carpet” lift in its beginner area to relieve congestion. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The Magic Carpet, its second surface lift in the beginner area, will help with congestion. At capacity, that mountain has 40-plus trails and glades.

“It looks like it’s going to be a good snow year – give us a week, and I think it’ll feel like it’s going to be a good snow year,” Wilkinson said. “The forecast looks great, looks very similar to last year, which was a lovely year. ”


Mt. Abram, Greenwood

Target opening: Dec. 16

Look for: Reconfigured lodge space with more seating capacity, a new seasonal locker room, new weekly rail jam snowboard competitions and a new alpine center.

Spokesman Uel Gardner said the Norway Savings Bank Alpine Center, under construction this week, will have space for coaches to meet with athletes on the first floor and second-floor space for timing and event announcements.

Mt. Abram has 48 trails at capacity. Gardner’s anticipating the snowboard competition to be a popular draw, potentially luring talent from as far away as Portland.

The mountain has a new general manager this winter, Bob Harkins, a former U.S. Ski Team coach and one of the founders of Cold River Vodka.


Sugarloaf, Carrabassett Valley

Opened: Nov. 9

Look for: Upgrades in snowmaking efficiency, improved snowmaking on Skidder Trail and its new “cat skiing” operation on Burnt Mountain.

The new Skyline lift at Sugarloaf is shown during the winter of 2011. It replaces the Spillway East lift that derailed Dec. 28, 2010, injuring at least six and left dozens more stranded in frozen suspension. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

The cats are a larger version of a snow-grooming machine with a cab that fits up to 12 passengers, according to spokeswoman Noelle Tuttle.

In “cat skiing,” skiers will hop in for a 20-minute ride along a newly cut half-mile road on the eastern side of Burnt Mountain, a trip that used to take an hour on foot.

“It accesses almost 1,000 acres of rugged and remote back-country terrain,” Tuttle said. “It’s an experience that’s totally unique to East Coast skiing and riding. Some other cat- skiing operations access trails that can also be accessed via chairlift – the terrain accessed by our cats would otherwise only be accessible by hiking.”

Parent company Boyne Resorts invested $250,000 for the new rides and skiers will have to pay an extra fee to use them.

Sugarloaf has more than 160 trails and glades at capacity, the largest number for a Maine mountain.

“This season is off to a really good start,” Tuttle said. “We’re up more than 10 percent in season pass sales … .”


Sunday River Resort, Newry

Opened: Nov. 11

Look for: $4.7 million in capital investments from Boyne Resorts that include the new Spruce Peak Triple chairlift, a new beginner trail with 8,000 feet of snowmaking and a massive deck expansion at The Mountain Room restaurant.

The chairlift, the resort’s first new lift since 2008, is capable of carrying 1,480 skiers an hour at 500 feet per minute, according to spokeswoman Darcy Lambert.

The new trail this season, Bear Paw, was cut on Locke Mountain in a partnership with Gould Academy in Bethel. Bear Paw is expected to move beginner traffic away from the Monday Mourning Trail, the dedicated race trail on the mountain.

“It’s really kind of a fun switchback trail – beginners are going to like it because it’s the easiest way down,” Lambert said.

At full capacity, with 15 chairlifts, Sunday River has 135 trails. It’s the most-visited ski mountain in Maine. Season pass sales are up 20 percent year-to-date. November lodging was up 28 percent over last November.


Saddleback Maine, Sandy River Plantation

Target opening: A big question mark.

Saddleback has been closed since the spring of 2015, and this past summer Australian-based Majella Group announced it was purchasing the resort. In a Nov. 9 post on Facebook, CEO Sebastian Monsour said the company had encountered delays in closing the sale but was “committed to opening in some capacity for the 2017/18 ski season.”

The resort’s website last week said simply, “Alpine skiing and snowboarding … the way it should be” with links to an old Q&A and press release.

This past week, management deferred comment to a Majella spokeswoman who didn’t respond to requests for comment.


Spruce Mountain, Jay

The Sun Journal also reached out to Spruce Mountain but didn’t hear back from officials.

Kathryn Skelton can be contacted at:

]]> 0 future of Saddleback Mountain, shown here in a 2008 photo, is still uncertain, though the new owner of the Rangeley resort is "committed to opening in some capacity" this season.Mon, 11 Dec 2017 07:15:13 +0000
Library in Hallowell hosts Dickens reading fundraiser Mon, 11 Dec 2017 01:19:02 +0000 HALLOWELL — The Hubbard Free Library continued to climb closer to its annual fundraising goal by hosting a reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in the City Hall Auditorium.

The event, co-sponsored by the Gaslight Theater, also included music, a raffle and desserts.

The library’s board decided in October to attempt to raise $25,000 by Dec. 31 that would be used to help with next year’s operating costs. As of Friday, the organization has received $20,065.70 in donations from individuals and businesses, according to board member Ken Young, which is 80.3 percent of the goal. The nonprofit raised an additional $1,010 during the event Sunday.

“With 21 days remaining in December, I anticipate that we will meet or exceed the goal,” Young siad. “The community and several donors from outside of Hallowell as well have been and continue to be very supportive.”

The nonprofit organization that runs the library, which was built in 1880 and is the oldest library building in Maine that still serves its original purpose, completed a seven-year capital campaign in 2014 and began thinking of ways to make the library’s day-to-day operations more efficient and sustainable.

“The response has been very, very significant in terms of our finances and heartwarming that so many people have responded in such a robust manner,” Young told the audience that packed the auditorium Sunday afternoon. “The range of contributions have been amazing.”

Before the reading by members of the Gaslight group, a cedar chest and three acrylic paintings of Monhegan Island and the Hubbard Free Library were raffled. Tickets were $5 for six chances, and all proceeds went to the library organization.

Board member Cara Courchesne said the board is encouraged by the support from the community.

“It shows how invested they are in keeping the library’s doors open,” she said. “Today was a perfect example of he community’s support.” And yet we also know that we can’t become complacent and assume that we’re in the clear. We have a lot of work to do.

State historian Earle Shuttleworth said public readings of Dickens’ work dates back to 1853 when the famous author himself was asked to read his own stories publicly. He stopped writing after 1858, Shuttleworth said, because of how much money he was able to make doing public readings.

“He devoted himself to the readings and was a natural actor who loved seeing the reactions of the audience,” Shuttleworth said.

In 1867, Dickens went on a four-month reading tour across America, including a stop in Portland on March 30, 1868. He took a train from Boston and stayed at the Prebble House Hotel ahead of his reading, which was held at the rebuilt City Hall auditorium. About 1,300 people attended the performance.

Throughout the tour, Dickens made 76 appearances and earned $228,000. After leaving Portland, Shuttleworth said a 12-year-old girl who’d become a well-known author, boarded in North Berwick determined to meet Dickens. His handler left his seat, and the girl sat down and struck up a conversation with Dickens that lasted until they got to Boston.

“This reading is part of the tradition,” Shuttleworth said.

After the nonprofit organization raised around $450,000 for the first phase of the campaign, which included a new slate roof, two new boilers and repairs to the building’s concrete exterior, contributions and donations to the nonprofit’s general fund have decreased steadily.

It costs about $130,000 per year to run the library, including pay for its five part-time staffers. The city of Hallowell contributes $27,000 per year, and the remaining money comes from the annual fund and the library’s investment fund.

Because of the decline in contributions in recent years, the organization has resorted to pulling money from the endowment to help pay for the daily operation of the facility. That practice is not sustainable, board members say, and if something doesn’t change, the library won’t be able to continue operating as it has in the past.

The library used to be open on more days throughout the week or for more hours. Last summer, it was closed on Mondays and was expected to re-open on Mondays once school started, but the closure has become a permanent cost-cutting measure. The library cannot afford to be open on Mondays, and if nothing changes, the library’s operation isn’t sustainable after another three or four years.

According to financial records, the nonprofit organization had $1,043,078 in assets at the end of 2016, which was down $59,049 from the previous year. Since the end of 2014, the organization has lost $89,211 in assets.

As part of the fund drive, the board actively is recruiting additional members to join the group’s board. It recently added a man with an advanced business degree and a woman with a master’s degree in library science.

Nonprofits can’t rely on the same set of donors because those people eventually get tired of being asked to donate. It’s important for the Hubbard organization to expand its group to bring in new people.

Since the campaign was announced in October, the trustees have received contributions that have varied from $4 and a jar full of silver coins to a $2,000 check.

Courchesne said despite the turnout Sunday and the money raised since October, the board knows there are still challenges ahead.

“We know that we can’t become complacent and assume that we’re in the clear,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

]]> 0 from the Gaslight Theater in Hallowell present a staged version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" at Hallowell City Hall on Sunday. Front, left to right are Ray Fletcher and Travis Burnham. Back row, from left are Craig Burnham, Richard Bostwick, Julie Poulin, Karen LaPlante, Bob Gilbert and Donna Loveland.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:14:58 +0000
Another snowstorm headed for Maine Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:46:04 +0000 People throughout the state spent Sunday digging out from the season’s first significant snowstorm, but Mainers shouldn’t get too comfortable because another storm packing plenty of snow is heading this way Tuesday.

And that storm will be followed by another challenge: A bitter Arctic cold front will envelop all of the state on Thursday.

“Tuesday’s storm looks like a bit of a mess,” Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gray, said Sunday evening.

The weather service said Tuesday’s storm has the potential to dump 6 or more inches of snow on interior sections of Maine. A mix of snow, sleet and rain is being forecast directly along the coast. Sinsabaugh predicts the wintry mix will make for a real mess in coastal communities such as Portland.

Sinsabaugh defined interior sections as any area away from the coastline, including such places as Windham, Westbrook and Gray in Cumberland County.

Forecasters are taking Tuesday’s storm seriously, with the National Weather Service issuing a winter storm watch Sunday afternoon.

The storm watch will take effect late Monday night and remain in effect through late Tuesday night. It warns that heavy snow is possible – along with difficult travel conditions – during the morning and evening commutes Tuesday.

Winter doesn’t officially begin until Dec. 21, but there was plenty of snow on the ground Sunday to remind people that more storms are likely headed our way.

According to snowfall totals compiled by the National Weather Service, the weekend storm dropped 6.4 inches in Portland; 7.5 inches in Kennebunk; 6.8 inches in Falmouth, 7 inches in Hope; 8 inches in Presque Isle; 9 inches in Deer Isle; and 8 inches in Wesley, a town in Washington County.

Sinsabaugh said the weather will turn extremely cold on Thursday, with most areas of Maine seeing low temperatures ranging from 5 below zero to 5 above.

Saturday’s storm moved into the state around noon in Kittery and moved slowly north, hitting Waterville in the early afternoon and Caribou by 5 p.m.

Emergency dispatchers said slick roads triggered dozens of slide-offs and fender benders. The storm triggered several parking bans.


]]> 0 Brayne, 10, clears his driveway along Rogers Road in Kittery early Sunday following the first snowfall of the season.Mon, 11 Dec 2017 07:33:55 +0000
Fast-moving tax bill gains amendments on the fly Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:42:36 +0000 WASHINGTON — Republicans are moving their tax bill toward final passage at stunning speed, blowing past Democrats before they’ve had time to fully mobilize against it but leaving the measure vulnerable to the type of expensive problems already popping up in their massive and complex plan.

Questionable special-interest provisions have been stuffed in along the way, out of public view and in some cases literally in the dead of night. Drafting errors by exhausted staff are cropping up in need of fixes, which must be tackled by congressional negotiators working to reconcile competing versions of the legislation passed separately by the House and the Senate.

And the melding process underway has opened the door to another frenzy of eleventh-hour lobbying as special interests, including President Trump’s rich friends, make one last dash for cash before the final bill speeds through both chambers of Congress and onto Trump’s desk. Passage is expected the week before Christmas.

Veterans of congressional tax overhauls, particularly the seminal revamp under President Ronald Reagan in 1986, have been stunned and in some cases outraged at how swiftly Republicans are moving on legislation that touches every corner of the economy and all Americans. And although Republican leaders make no apologies, some in their rank and file say that the process would have benefited from a more deliberate and open approach.

“I think it would have looked better if we had taken more time and had more transparency, had more open committee hearings,” said freshman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. “Having said that, the goal that everybody had was to reduce the tax rates. … So at the end of the day the goal is going to be achieved, but we could have done it in a more transparent manner that probably would have given the voters that are being polled a little more confidence,” Comer said, referring to the effort’s poor showing in opinion surveys.

It has been just more than a month since the $1.5 trillion legislation was introduced in the House, and in that short time it has cleared the two key committees in the House and Senate and won approval on the floors of both chambers, all without a single Democratic vote. If Trump signs the bill as planned before Christmas, that would mean a journey of less than two months between introduction and final passage.

The specific legislation that probably will become law, sold as a middle-class tax cut but featuring a massive corporate rate reduction at its center, is moving from release toward passage without any hearings, unusual for a bill of such magnitude. And as it tumbled along it picked up some startling new features, to the surprise of affected industries, Democrats and in some cases Republicans themselves.

Some of the most notable changes came in the hours preceding the Senate’s passage of its version of the bill, which happened about 1:50 a.m. Dec. 2.

The final vote was preceded by hours of inaction as Republicans fine-tuned their legislation behind closed doors, while fuming Democratic staffers ate Chinese food and poured over versions of the bill and lists of amendments that had been leaked by lobbyists on K Street before Republicans had made anything public.

As they got additional drafts of the bill, Democrats were incensed at some of what they found, including new breaks for the oil and gas industry, and a provision that appeared aimed specifically at helping Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan that doesn’t accept federal funding and has a large endowment funded by wealthy conservatives including the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

An angry Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stood on the Senate floor to declare that “the federal treasury is being looted.” In their one victory of the debate, Democrats offered an amendment to strike the Hillsdale provision, and with the help of four Republicans it passed.

Democrats weren’t the only ones surprised by what was in the bill. Republicans and the business community were stunned when the final Senate version restored the alternative minimum tax for corporations. The tax, aimed at keeping companies from shirking their tax duties entirely, had been repealed in the House bill and earlier versions of the Senate measure.

Restoring the corporate alternative minimum tax created $40 billion in revenue for the bill, which helped Republicans come in under complex budgetary guidelines saying the legislation can’t go over the $1.5 trillion the Republican Party has agreed to add to the deficit over the next decade. Still, some Republicans professed not to know how the change had come about.

And under the new tax code the Republican bill would create, including the alternative minimum tax could have the unintended consequence of preventing companies from using other deductions, including the popular research and development tax credit.

“I’m guessing they just needed something quick to make the bill work,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who is one of the conferees charged with blending the two bills together.

Now, as quickly as it reappeared, the corporate alternative minimum tax probably will disappear again. Republican lawmakers widely agree that it doesn’t work and can’t be included, but it remains a mystery where they’ll find revenue to offset that change and pay for others they’re looking to include in the final package.

There has been discussion of moving the corporate rate to 22 percent, but the backlash against that proposal has been intense, and it probably will be dropped. But revenue must be found somewhere because there are some changes that look nearly certain, including adjusting the new limit on deducting state and local taxes. Both the House and Senate legislation would allow taxpayers to only deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes. Some of Trump’s New York friends have taken exception to that provision and have lobbied the president personally against it.

It’s all part of a breakneck pace of the tax bill that contrasts with the nearly a year-and-a-half that passed between when Reagan unveiled his initial version of the 1986 tax plan and its ultimate passage into law. The less far-ranging tax cuts that President George W. Bush signed in 2001 took four months to become law after the release of Bush’s initial blueprint. And the Affordable Care Act took nearly a year to complete, including a congressional summer recess featuring angry town hall meetings that turned public sentiment sharply against the bill.

Democrats accuse Republicans of whisking the legislation along to avoid extended public scrutiny and prevent them from mounting an offensive at public hearings or over lengthy congressional breaks. The Republican bills have endured neither.

“It’s clear that we could have defeated this bill had we gone through regular order and had any expert witness from any blue state or high-tax state come in,” said Rep. John B. Larson, D-Conn., who was a member of Democratic leadership during the much lengthier and more open process of passing the ACA. The provision limiting taxpayers’ ability to deduct state and local taxes hits high-tax areas like California, New York, New Jersey and Larson, Connecticut, particularly hard.

“People would have said ‘Well wait a minute,’ ” Larson said.

Republican congressional leaders dispute such comparisons, saying that the process on taxes has been going on for years, given that the party has long been debating the idea and an early foundational bill was released by then-Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, nearly four years ago. House Republicans led by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also campaigned last year on an agenda called Better Way agenda, which featured a tax plank similar in many respects to the bill the House ultimately passed, though it drew scant attention at the time.

“These are relatively small bills, 400 pages or so; they’re not hard to digest. The policy decisions, the thoughtfulness, a lot of these issues we’ve been debating together and apart for years,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas. “Bottom line is the American people have been waiting 30 years. So to paraphrase a hardware store: less talking, more doing.”

Even before the late-night Senate dramatics, the process offered surprises and sudden twists.

A provision repealing an Affordable Care Act requirement for most Americans to carry insurance or pay fines was added to the Senate bill with little warning over the course of an afternoon, a major health policy decision that is projected to leave 13 million more Americans uninsured in a decade but that would give Republicans $330 billion to pay for other things they want to do.

And the release of the House bill stunned manufacturers when they discovered it contained an “excise tax” on purchases from American companies’ foreign subsidiaries that some said could drive them out of business. The provision was watered down before passage by the Ways and Means Committee, but companies are still fighting to keep it out of the final bill, said Nancy McLernon, president of the Organization for International Investment, which represents global companies with U.S. operations. Despite the years-long focus on tax overhaul, such a provision had not been debated – even after companies beat back a different import tax, she said.

The Senate has a different provision that companies like better, but as far as the cost of going from one to the other or how it will all shake out, “It’s all a Rubik’s cube,” McLernon said.

Many lobbyists, Democrats and other observers expect to find the final version of the bill, which could be filed late this week, just as full of surprises as the various iterations that have appeared. But as they gun for a legislative win that has eluded them this year, Republicans show little interest in slowing down to take a closer look.

“The frenzy, and I would call it a frenzy, to get it done and have a Christmas present for America – number one, I think it’s unnecessary; it’s a self-imposed deadline, and number two, it makes the possibility for error much greater,” said Steve Bell, a senior adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center who was staff director of the Senate Budget Committee during the 1986 tax effort. “This is a rush without a reason other than the political desire for a Rose Garden signing ceremony.”

]]> 0 code books sit on a table as the House Ways and Means Committee begins markup of the GOP tax bill on Nov. 6. MUST CREDIT: Andrew Harrer, BloombergSun, 10 Dec 2017 20:17:40 +0000
Nukes take center stage, but North Korea also makes headway on bioweapons Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:07:28 +0000 Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was underway on a biological weapon. The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away. North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification, according to U.S. and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts. Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un’s government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

The gains have alarmed U.S. analysts, who say North Korea – which has doggedly pursued weapons of mass destruction of every other variety – could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbors or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.

Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.

“That the North Koreans have (biological) agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity regarding sensitive military assessments. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”

But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s program, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

“If it started tomorrow we might not know it,” the official said, “unless we’re lucky enough to have an informant who happens to be in just the right place.”

In a country that is famously secretive, it is perhaps the most carefully guarded secret of all. North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare program of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.

Yet, in 2015, the country’s leader took it upon himself to partially roll back the curtain. On June 6 of that year, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-story facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory.

State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides – mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop. But to U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.

Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons program. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

It was the first public confirmation of the existence of such machines in North Korea, and some U.S. and Asian experts saw their presence as deeply ominous.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown. “Regardless of whether the equipment is being used to produce anthrax today, it could be in the near future.”

U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.

Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.

“Responding by showing their own capability could be taken as a threat,” she said.

Some weapons experts were skeptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear typically found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown in the video were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork. Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.

“The real takeaway is that [North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”

That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.

Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.

“It’s a presumption that they have it and will use it,” said a retired military officer who oversaw troops on the peninsula. “We’ve had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to deal with some of the WMD.”

But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities – and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons – have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts. Official assessments by U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies have generally concluded that Pyongyang has experimented with a handful of bacterial strains, including the microbes that cause anthrax, cholera and plague. U.S. analysts also have believed since at least the mid-1990s that North Korea possesses the smallpox virus, a conclusion based in part on the discovery of antibodies in the bloodstreams of North Korean soldiers who escaped to the South in the 1980s and 1990s.

That assessment, while controversial, is buttressed by senior North Korean government and military defectors as well as foreign governments with special insight into the regime’s military secrets. In 1993, the head of the Russian intelligence agency’s foreign branch revealed in a report that North Korea was performing “applied military-biological research” on four pathogens, including microbes that cause anthrax and smallpox.

But more recently, questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war. While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield – hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.

But germs as military weapons also have distinct disadvantages, as they are difficult to control and can take hours or days to kill or disable. A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly. Now that the North is equipped with state-of-the-art factories and teams of trained specialists, that shift could conceivably happen in weeks or even days, said the senior official familiar with military preparations for a biological attack.

“The capabilities – the science and technology – all of that now exists,” the official said. “Kim has chosen not to deploy at this time. But ultimately it comes down to a political decision.”

In the waning years of the Cold War, Soviet weapons scientists labored in secret to build new super-germs more dangerous than those found in nature. With mixed success, using techniques still novel in the 1980s, they spliced together bits of DNA to increase virulence – so that microbes would kill more quickly – or to introduce stealthy features that would make them harder to detect.

There is no known evidence that Pyongyang is working to engineer designer bugs, U.S. analysts say. But there are signs that North Korea is attempting to catapult itself into the 21st-century worlds of genetic research and biomedical science.

In 2015, as North Korea’s new microbe-producing factory was coming online, North Korean scientists were teaming up with Chinese counterparts on a research project to identify previously unknown bacterial species discovered in the glacial ice in Svalbard, the Norway-owned island chain far north of the Arctic Circle. In a rare instance in which North Koreans took the lead on a peer-reviewed scientific paper, the scientists described using DNA sequencing techniques to isolate the novel strains.

The project was the most dramatic example of what private researchers describe as a surge of interest by North Koreans in genetic engineering and other biotech disciplines. Earlier this year, the Welsh artificial intelligence firm Amplyfi conducted a search of the “deep web” – the parts of the Internet invisible to the public – for evidence of North Korean interest in biodefense topics. The company’s DataVoyant search tool produced hundreds of thousands of hits and showed a spike in interest in such terms as “gene expression” and “nucleic acid sequence,” beginning two years ago.

A preliminary analysis suggested a pattern of behavior that U.S. and Asian officials have independently confirmed: a broad North Korean effort to obtain outside expertise from private companies, academic institutions and even nonprofits, company officials said. North Korea is believed to have used technical designs from a British agricultural nonprofit in building its microbe-producing Pyongyang Biotechnology Center, and it has sought to enroll promising microbiology students in top research universities across Europe and Asia. In recent years, the North Koreans also have sought to sell medical services to the developing world, in one instance building and staffing an entire hospital in Zambia.

“Every continent is represented,” Amplyfi co-founder Chris Ganje said in a phone interview from the company’s headquarters in Cardiff, Wales. He said the search turned up “worrying indicators of unintended support,” adding: “It is obvious that the international community and larger institutions need to be cautious in providing seemingly benign academic scientific education and training to North Korea.”

A harder challenge is separating legitimate efforts to improve North Korea’s medical infrastructure with more sinister attempts to a create new varieties of killing machines, officials and experts acknowledge. Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programs for decades.

“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”

]]> 0 Korean leader Kim Jong Un, waving during a military parade April 15 in Pyongyang, is showing determination to make technical progress on his weapons programs and defiance of international pressure.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 19:28:27 +0000
State officials put proposal to bring food trucks to east side campus on hold Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:57:19 +0000 AUGUSTA — State officials have put a proposal to bring food trucks to the state’s east side campus, where there are about 750 workers but few dining options, on the back burner after getting only two responses from food truck operators.

The state sought quotes for mobile food truck services to provide dining options outside its complex of offices on the former grounds of Augusta Mental Health Institute on the east side of the Kennebec River in November. However, the request for quotes only brought two proposals, so a state official said Friday they plan to shelve the plan for now and start again in the spring, when they hope to get more interest from food truck operators.

David Heidrich, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said the state learned through the recently completed process that most food truck operations shut down for the winter, and thus may not be on the lookout for work this time of year.

“In a perfect world we would intend to launch this effort immediately,” Heidrich said of bringing food trucks to the east side campus. “It’s likely that we will look to launch this effort again in spring 2018, when we could launch this service with a more robust lineup of options.”

Two food truck operators submitted proposals to the state’s request, Portland-based Mainely Burgers and Mechanic Falls-based Shut up N eat it.

Max Barber, 22, who owns and operates the three-truck Mainely Burgers business, which also has a stationary restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his brother Jack, 24, said he, too, suspects more food truck operators would submit proposals if the state sought quotes when seasonal food trucks are in operation, not after they’ve shut down for the winter season.

“This is our offseason, like a lot of other operators, we store our trucks and focus on other things,” during the winter, Barber said. “It’s not the best time of year to find food trucks.”

Barber said he thinks the state is on to a good idea and a food truck that parks on the state office campus could do well, with that many workers and no obvious nearby dining spots within walking distance.

“It’s a great opportunity, in my opinion, especially with 750 people and there not being a lot of good food options,” he said. “It could be good for food trucks, and good for state employees. I think they’ll have success and get a strong following.”

This photo taken on Friday shows State of Maine East Side Campus. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Billie-Jo Severy, owner of the Shut up N’ eat it food truck, is so interested in the proposal that, Friday, she had her boyfriend working to insulate the food truck, to winterize it so they could serve food on the state campus through the winter.

She was disappointed the state may not pursue the plan, and hopes to reach a deal to come sell food on the east side campus, perhaps as kind of a trial run.

“My boyfriend is out there right now, winterizing the truck as we speak, for this,” she said. “We’re hoping to do something with (the state), otherwise I’ll be looking for ice fishing derbies and things like that. I think it’s a great idea, especially for the employees who won’t have to leave to get something to eat.”

Severy said the idea should be attractive to food trucks because, usually, most of the events where they serve food take place on weekends, while the state offices would be in use on weekdays.

Shut up N’ eat it serves comfort food, including homemade macaroni and cheese, chili, corndogs, deep fried pickles, chicken wings with Severy’s own sauce, and unusual combinations such as an all beef hot dog with mac and cheese, and “slop” which includes a layer of mac and cheese, chili, and nachos.

Severy said the light-hearted name of her business comes from her kids and boyfriend, who she said are picky eaters. As in, when they complain they don’t like onions, or some other item, she responds by telling them to shut up and eat their food.

“I like personality,” she said.

Severy said she usually does festivals, including the Whatever Family Festival in Augusta and Riverfest in Gardiner, and events including the Union Fair.

Mainely Burgers, obviously, specializes in burgers, with a motto of “The way burgers should be.” It also has side dishes such as hand-cut fries, Brussels sprouts, and fried cauliflower.

They started in 2012 with a single truck that works summers at Scarborough Beach, and have since added a restaurant in Massachusetts and two other trucks that work summers in the Portland area.

Barber said by submitting a proposal to the state’s request the business was not committing to serve food in Augusta, which he said would be a fairly long drive for their trucks. He said they might be interested in trying it as a sort of trial run. He said while there appears to be opportunity there, there is also some risk because the site would be new, so there is no way to know for sure whether state employees or others on the east side campus would provide enough business.

“It’s an untested event, so for us to commit to going a few times a week is kind of out of the picture for now,” he said. “Hopefully we can work something out and do a trial run, help bring success. But it’s tricky, with untested events.”

Heidrich said food truck operators would be expected to show up to serve on a schedule which would be negotiated between the state and operators. But he said if the arrangement turns out to not be beneficial to the state or operator, a mutually agreeable solution could be negotiated to end the lease agreement.

The food truck operators would be expected to pay a monthly lease of $100, according to the state’s request for quotes. Food trucks, and other businesses, are not allowed to solicit business on state property without prior permission.

Heidrich said there currently is only a small cafe with a limited menu on the east campus, Ray’s Cafe in the Ray Building and, across Hospital Street in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles building, Tim’s Cafe.

“This new service would give the individuals on this campus more options, including specialty items for breakfast and lunch without having to travel off campus,” Heidrich said. “We are looking for a variety of options, including specialty offerings as well as basic coffee and lunch items.”

He said the food trucks would be intended to supplement on-campus options, not replace patronage, by state employees and others on the campus, at local businesses.

The state’s selection process is expected to include sampling of food trucks’ offerings.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

]]> 0 Barber plans on having the Mainely Burgers food truck running in a few weeks. Photographed in Portland on May 2, 2013.Mon, 11 Dec 2017 10:15:43 +0000
Morning Sentinel Dec. 10 police log Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:15:30 +0000 IN BINGHAM, Saturday at 3:52 p.m., a burglary was reported on West Street.

6:03 p.m., police investigated a report of a burglary on Murray Street.

IN CLINTON, Saturday at 3:57 p.m., police responded to an accident in which a person was injured on Hinckley Road.

IN EUSTIS, Saturday at 9:27 p.m., police responded to an accident in which a person was injured on Arnold Trail.

IN FARMINGTON, Saturday at 5:01 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Granite Heights.

5:35 p.m., a report of harassment was taken on Thompson Walton Court.

IN FAIRFIELD, Saturday at 11:36 a.m., a complaint of a scam was taken on Keyes Street.

IN JAY, Saturday at 12:13 p.m., a theft was reported on Main Street.

3:10 p.m., a report of harassment was taken on Main Street.

IN MADISON, Saturday at 9:10 a.m., a burglary was reported on Main Street.

10:39 a.m., a report of harassment was made on Wedge Street.

3:05 p.m., a theft was reported on Old Point Road.

3:55 p.m., disorderly conduct was reported on Clifton Street.

IN NEW VINEYARD, Saturday at 3:47 p.m., a brush fire was reported on New Vineyard Road.

IN PALERMO, Saturday at 9:56 a.m., a report of harassment was taken on Hicks Pond Road.

IN PITTSFIELD, Saturday at 11:16 a.m., a theft was reported on Somerset Avenue.

IN RANGELEY, Saturday at 10:48 a.m., a report of harassment was taken on Main Street.

Sunday at 10:04 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Main Street.

11:10 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on State Park Road.

IN SKOWHEGAN, Saturday at 5:22 p.m., a disturbance was reported on French Street.

7:14 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on French Street.

8:05 p.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity on Madison Avenue.

11:49 p.m., police investigated a report of disorderly conduct on Hanover Street.

Sunday at 3:46 a.m., police investigated a disturbance on Hanover Street.

IN SMITHFIELD, Saturday at 5:31 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Miller Lane.

IN STARKS, Saturday at 10:46 a.m., police conducted a fire and smoke investigation on Denbow Road.

11:24 a.m., a report of threatening was taken on Mason Corner Road.

IN WINSLOW, Saturday at 6:27 a.m., a burglary of a motor vehicle was reported on Boston Avenue.

9:54 a.m., a burglary of a motor vehicle was reported on Halifax Street.

9:59 a.m., a report of harassment was taken on Victor Terrace.

11:02 a.m., criminal mischief was reported on Poulin Street.

11:04 a.m., police investigated a report of criminal mischief on Poulin Street.

IN WATERVILLE, Saturday at 6:55 a.m., a burglary of a motor vehicle was reported on High Street.

7:21 a.m., police investigated a report of theft on Deeb Street.

10:55 a.m., a theft was reported on Kennedy Memorial Drive.

12:39 p.m., police investigated a report of criminal mischief on Carey Lane.

1:03 p.m., a report of threatening was taken on Silver Street.

3:18 p.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity at Maine Specialty Pharmacy on Washington Street.

8:54 p.m., police responded to a report of threatening on College Avenue.

10:14 p.m., a domestic dispute was reported on Gold Street.

10:30 p.m., an assault was reported on Autumn Street.

11:34 p.m., police investigated a report of criminal mischief on Prospect Street.

Sunday at 3:13 a.m., a noise complaint was taken on College Avenue.


IN OAKLAND, Saturday at 10:08 p.m., Clinton P. Caron, 28, of Oakland, was arrested and charged with domestic violence assault.

IN WATERVILLE, Saturday at 2:11 p.m., Christian M. Reid, 22, of Palermo, was arrested and charged with operating while license suspended or revoked, operating with suspended registration and violating condition of release.

11:53 p.m., Dakota R. Owens, 26, of Waterville, was arrested and charged on a probation hold.

Sunday at 3:16 a.m., Philip E. Howard, 31, of Waterville, was arrested and charged on a warrant.

IN WINSLOW, Saturday at 7:33 p.m., David M. Easinsky, 55, of Winslow, was arrested and charged with operating under the influence.

IN SOMERSET COUNTY, Saturday at 7:22 p.m., Earlene M. Moody, 57, of Skowhegan, arrested and charged on a probation and parole hold.

Sunday at 2:05 a.m., Marcy M. Searles, 35, of Chelsea, arrested and charged with unlawful possession of scheduled drugs and violating condition of release.


IN CLINTON, Saturday at 1:34 p.m., Maranda L. Vicnaire, 27, of Jackman, was summoned on a charge of habitual motor vehicle offender.

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:15:30 +0000
Somerset County court for Sept. 18-22, 2017 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 20:51:05 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — Closed cases for Sept. 18-22, 2017, in Skowhegan District Court and Somerset County Superior Court.

Ryan F. Cartier, 29, of Bellingham, Massachusetts, operating ATV on land of another without permission Sept. 2, 2017, in East Moxie Township; $100 fine.

Travis W. Clement, 38, of Norridgewock, domestic violence assault and domestic violence terrorizing, March 1, 2017, in Fairfield, dismissed.

Brandon T. Closson, 21, of Madison, motor vehicle speeding more than 30 mph over speed limit May 18, 2017, in Smithfield, dismissed.

Jodi D. Cochran, 32, of Fairfield, unlawful possession of scheduled drug July 18, 2017, in Fairfield; $400 fine, 180-day all suspended jail sentence, one-year probation.

Wayne Decker, 53, of Skowhegan, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer May 5, 2017, in Skowhegan; $200 fine.

Stephanie Freeman, 28, of Skowhegan, negotiating a worthless instrument July 8, 2017, in Skowhegan; $200 fine, two-day jail sentence, $23.46 restitution.

Gregory R. Hanson, 26, of Clinton, operating while license suspended or revoked April 28, 2017, in Skowhegan; $250 fine.

James Holland, 78, of Skowhegan, unlawfully trolling fly Aug. 20, 2017, in Upper Enchanted Township; $100 fine.

Peter A. Jellie, 35, of Cumberland, unlawful use of bait in artificial lure only water July 18, 2017, in Skowhegan; $100 fine.

Amber Ladd, 32, of Fairfield, disorderly conduct, offensive words, gestures Sept. 22, 2017, in Fairfield; $200 fine.

Logan Lamphere, 28, of Skowhegan, fish violation of number, amount, weight or size May 25, 2017, in Skowhegan; $100 fine.

Andrew Martin III, 47, of Hartland, loaded firearm or crossbow in motor vehicle Nov. 10, 2016, in Hartland, dismissed.

Mary Page, 53, of Canaan, operating under the influence June 3, 2017, in Skowhegan; $700 fine, 180-day jail sentence all but seven days suspended, one-year probation, three-year license and registration suspended; operating while license suspended or revoked and failing to notify of motor vehicle accident, same date and town, dismissed.

Stephen K. Price, 51, of Anson, reckless conduct Aug. 9, 2016, in Anson, dismissed.

Jason M. Sears, 35, of Skowhegan, domestic violence assault June 7, 2017, in Skowhegan; 364-day jail sentence all but four days suspended, one-year probation; aggravated assault, same date and town, dismissed.

Stillman Shaw, 29, of Anson, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer Sept. 1, 2017, in New Portland; 180-day jail sentence all but 21 days suspended, one year probation, $1,130 restitution.

Alan W. Simonds, 47, of Madison, harassment June 22, 2017, in Madison; two-day jail sentence.

Tracey L. Steward, 51, of Skowhegan, assault June 22, 2016, in Skowhegan; three-year Department of Corrections sentence all but 45 days suspended, two year probation. Violating condition of release Sept. 19, 2017, in Skowhegan; 14-day jail sentence.

Jennifer Swett, 28, of Winslow, reckless conduct Sept. 5, 2016, in Fairfield; $300 fine; reckless conduct, same date and town, dismissed.

Micky Thornton, 30, of The Forks, operating unregistered ATV July 20, 2017, in The Forks; $200 fine.

Miranda L. Torres, 20, of Pittsfield, domestic violence assault Aug. 25, 2016, in Pittsfield, dismissed.

Michael Angelo Bates Valotto, 23, of Newmarket, New Hampshire, fishing without valid license Aug. 20, 2017, in West Forks; $100 fine.

Stephanie S. Ward, 44, of Concord Township, failing to report Feb. 17, 2017, in Skowhegan; 26-day jail sentence; violating condition of release Feb. 17, 2017, in Skowhegan; 26-day jail sentence.

Dwayne V. Weese, 50, of Athens, criminal threatening July 20, 2016, in Athens, dismissed.

Lee Wurzel, 33, of Oxford, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer Oct. 1, 2016, in Canaan; 364-day all suspended jail sentence, one-year administrative release, $2,568.99 restitution.

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 15:51:05 +0000
Kennebec Journal Dec. 10 police log Sun, 10 Dec 2017 20:34:14 +0000 AUGUSTA

Saturday at 10:33 a.m., there was a traffic accident on Cony Circle.

10:34 a.m., disorderly conduct was reported on Gage Street.

11:55 a.m., disorderly conduct was reported on Edison Circle.

3:01 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Interstate 95.

3:30 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Interstate 95.

3:31 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Green Street.

3:46 p.m., theft was reported on Northern Avenue.

3:57 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Eastern Avenue.

4:20 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Oak Street.

4:46 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Memorial Circle.

4:48 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Stone Street.

5 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Church Hill Road.

6:16 p.m., there was a disturbance reported on Littlefield Street.

6:47 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Chapel and Green streets.

7:37 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Western Avenue.

8:14 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Bangor Street.

Sunday at 1:39 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Middle Street.



Saturday at 11:16 p.m., Dustin J. Jewett, 35, of Hallowell, was arrested and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol and operating while license suspended or revoked after a traffic stop on North Belfast Avenue and Deer Ridge Lane.


Saturday at 9:51 a.m., Patrick J. Cotnoir, 42, of Portland, was arrested on a warrant after a welfare check on Dummers Lane.

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 15:34:14 +0000
School nurses on front lines of mental health, societal problems Sun, 10 Dec 2017 20:26:40 +0000 WINTHROP — On a recent morning, Rachel Miville was focusing on the health needs of at least eight children.

At one point, Miville received a visit from two JV basketball players at Winthrop High School, a boy with a swollen ankle and a girl with an inflamed toe, who both worried they’d miss their games against Lisbon High School the next day.

While dealing with the basketball players, Miville also assisted two other high-schoolers. One declined to be observed by a reporter. The other, a junior, hit her head recently, and Miville gave her a short neurological assessment, asking how she was sleeping, how her balance was, and other questions.

Then Miville, who has worked as a school nurse for 10 years, grabbed a walkie-talkie, threw on her coat, left the building and made the short drive to Winthrop Middle School. One student complained of swollen lymph nodes, another had an earache, and a third asked to see her later in the morning. In between talking with students, Miville was communicating with other staff members of the Winthrop School District via text message.

It seemed like a busy morning, but it was a typical one for Miville, the only nurse in a school district of about 900 students. Besides going between the middle and high schools, which are next to each other, “Nurse Rachel” also makes trips to Winthrop Grade School, more than a mile away, and to students’ homes.

“No matter what (school) building I walk in, it’s consistent like that,” she said. “School nurses have this reputation of giving out Tums and putting Band-Aids on, but it’s not like that. I make home visits. I’m often the first in line to catch things. … Do they have adequate food, water, access to heat?”

Given the growing number of health and social problems facing Maine children, Miville and other Winthrop school officials say the district’s nursing services could use even more support in the future to ensure students are healthy and ready to study.

The problems include a rise in children being diagnosed with complicated, chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma, as well as mental illnesses such as anxiety.

In the Winthrop School District, Miville is currently overseeing 122 students with asthma, 51 with anxiety or depression, 36 with life-threatening allergies, seven with seizure disorders, and six with diabetes, she wrote in an email. She was not immediately able to provide multiple years of data, as the numbers were not saved in one place or in an easily comparable format.

Winthrop school nurse Rachel Miville talks on the phone in her office Thursday at the high school in Winthrop. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

At the same time, the number of low-income Maine children enrolled in federally subsidized health care programs has been dropping, leaving many school nurses on the front line in recognizing health problems. And with the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic, the rise in substance abuse among adults has also harmed children in various ways.

“The health problems of students are certainly more dramatic than they were 17 years ago when I started this job,” said Ann Bouchard, of Waterville High School, who was recently named school nurse of the year by the Maine Association of School Nurses. “We have kids with chronic health conditions that are physical, but we also have a large number of kids with serious mental health issues, including skyrocketing levels of anxiety.”

Mental, physical needs

Deborah Hagler, a Brunswick pediatrician who serves as vice president of the Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, agreed that mental health and behavioral health problems are growing among children, and said that those ailments can manifest in physical symptoms.

“The data supports that,” she said. “I’m sure the school nurses see that in the form of belly aches, headaches, students who are tired. We see that more and more.”

When told how many students Miville is responsible for in the Winthrop schools, Hagler added, “It would depend on how many children have complicated medical needs, but I would assume that’s not optimal. That’s a lot of little people for one person to potentially administer and keep track of medications. … You don’t know if a child is using an inhaler the right way, or has the correct insulin dose.”

No recent information was available about the average staffing levels of nurses in Maine school districts. In 2008, the National Association of School Nurses found that the average school nurse in Maine oversaw 602 students, the ninth-lowest rate in the country.

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that there be one full-time, registered nurse in every school building — a threshold that school districts like Winthrop don’t meet.

While school counselors, health aids and other staff can play an important role in the care of children, it’s best to have a registered nurse who can perform physical health assessments, according to Ilmi Carter, a school nurse in Rockland and president of the Maine Association of School Nurses.

Not only can nurses free up time for teachers or administrators who may have to attend to students, they can also pinpoint what’s causing a complaint and prevent the student from having to leave school for the day, Carter said.

They can also catch more serious problems, particularly among students whose guardians can’t provide them with steady health care, said Janis Hogan, a school nurse in the Camden area who is Maine director for the National Association of School Nurses.

‘The best liaison’

On one Monday morning, Hogan said, a boy came into her office on the instruction of his mother and asked her to look at a circular rash.

Hogan suspected Lyme disease and instructed the parents to bring the child to a doctor, who put the boy on antibiotics, Hogan recalled. But that night, the boy was taken to the hospital with a high fever and diagnosed with Lyme carditis, in which bacteria was attacking his heart.

Lyme carditis “can be fatal,” Hogan said. “He was sent to Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and was in the ICU for close to a week, so I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t come here.”

On a recent morning in Winthrop, Miville also called several parents and asked them to bring their kids to the doctor. She gave the basketball players ibuprofen and other remedies, but offered no assurances about their games the next day.

“I’m really wanting to play tomorrow,” said Noah Dunn, a freshman, who was icing his wrapped-up ankle in Miville’s office and intermittently scrolling through his phone. “I hope I can.”

“If anything, you need to go home, so you can be off that foot,” Miville told him.

Winthrop school nurse Rachel Miville talks to a student in her office Thursday at the high school in Winthrop. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

In fact, Miville’s workload this year has been slightly lighter than it was one year ago.

Until this year, the Winthrop School District has employed a full-time health worker to assist her in the grade school. But this year, it was able to pay a second health worker to assist her in the middle school, after receiving extra funding when it took a student from Fayette, according to Superintendent Gary Rosenthal.

The extra set of hands has helped, Miville said, because “I would have had to run up here at least three more times if she wasn’t here.”

Still, both Rosenthal and Miville say the district could use even more nursing support. While Miville recognizes the budgetary constraints facing the town, she thinks the town should hire a second full-time nurse.

Last summer, Town Councilors suggested they might be willing to raise funds for another health worker position, but that funding was dropped from the final budget.

“These are family issues and home issues and social issues that we have no control over but that we have to deal with every day,” Rosenthal said. “The nurse is the best liaison who deals with this stuff every day.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

]]> 0 school nurse Rachel Miville, left, calls the parents of Noah Dunn, right, to come and pick him up after she wrapped up his ankle in her office Thursday at the high school in Winthrop.Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:45:01 +0000
Kennebec County Courts Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2017 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 20:07:27 +0000 AUGUSTA — This is a roundup of cases closed Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2017, in courts in Augusta and Waterville.

Marcus T. Allen, 40, of Oakland, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 17, 2017, in Augusta; $500 fine.

Michelle A. Arbour, 40, of Augusta, operating while license suspended or revoked Aug. 10, 2017, in Augusta; $500 fine, seven-day jail sentence.

Abby E. Arena, 29, of Stetson, passing stopped school bus Sept. 14, 2017, in Waterville; $250 fine.

Aaron E. Armstrong, 37, of Windsor, motor vehicle speeding more than 30 mph over speed limit Sept. 15, 2017, in Windsor, dismissed.

Matthew W. Benger, 25, of Saco, aggravated assault June 12, 2017, in Vassalboro, dismissed.

Angela L. Berry, 39, of Mercer, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 7, 2017, in Clinton; $600 fine.

Douglas L. Blaisdell, 76, of Rome, operating under the influence Sept. 21, 2017, in Rome; $500 fine, 150-day license suspension.

Dakota L. Brann, 21, of Augusta, reckless conduct April 11, 2017, in Gardiner; five-year Department of Corrections sentence all but 20 months suspended, two-year probation; reckless conduct April 11, 2017, in Gardiner; 20-month Department of Corrections sentence; failure to stop, remain, render aid, personal injury, and two counts each elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault, same date and town, dismissed.

Brittany V. Brown, 27, of Presque Isle, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and two counts unlawful possession of scheduled drug, all Aug. 28, 2017, in Waterville, dismissed.

Bobby C. Campbell Jr., 51, of Waterville, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer Oct. 24, 2017, in Waterville; 24-hour jail sentence.

Courtney Campbell, 20, of Winslow, permit unlawful use Oct. 25, 2017, in Waterville; $100 fine.

Marianne Christian, 55, of Augusta, criminal mischief Oct. 13, 2017, in Augusta; $150 fine.

Nicholas Cummings Sr., 35, of Oakland, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 22, 2017, in Waterville; $500 fine.

Francis J. Delaney Jr., 58, of Norridgewock, operating under the influence Sept. 10, 2017, in Benton; $500 fine, 48-hour jail sentence, 150-day license suspension.

David Dodge, 34, of Manchester, operating under the influence Feb. 27, 2017, in Augusta; $700 fine, 10-day jail sentence, three-year license and registration suspension.

Keith A. Doyon, 35, of North Waterboro, operating after registration suspended, Nov. 6, 2017, in Belgrade, dismissed.

Karen M. Dube, 60, of Whitefield, operating under the influence June 18, 2017, in Augusta; $500 fine, 96-hour jail sentence, 150-day license suspension; failure to stop, remain, provide information, same date and town, dismissed.

Jacob G. Dubuc, 18, of Auburn, driving to endanger July 7, 2017, in Monmouth, dismissed.

Charity J. Eccleston, 19, of Winslow, marijuana: under 21 years of age Oct. 19, 2017, in Winslow; $350 fine.

Benjamin J. Fisher, 21, of Woolwich, disposing of lighted material May 19, 2016, in Rome, dismissed.

Jordan E. Freeman, 30, of Windsor, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 26, 2017, in Winslow; $500 fine; displaying suspended driver’s license, same date and town, dismissed.

Katie L. Gallant, 28, of Beverly, Massachusetts, operating vehicle without license Oct. 27, 2017, in Waterville; $100 fine.

Raymond F. Gallant, 53, of Chocorua, New Hampshire, permit unlawful use Oct. 27, 2017, in Waterville; $100 fine.

Rafael A. Gomez, 45, of Union City, New Jersey, commercial vehicle rule violation: operation with false duty status Sept. 20, 2017, in Sidney; $500 fine.

Richard Gove, 62, of Whitefield, smoking in motor vehicle with person less than 16 years of age Oct. 6, 2017, in Augusta; $100 fine.

Shannon Grant, 38, of Waterville, operating while license suspended or revoked July 30, 2017, in Waterville; $250 fine.

Jeremy Greenan, 33, of South Paris, violating condition of release Dec. 1, 2017, in Augusta, dismissed.

Ariele L. Griatzky, 18, of West Gardiner, passing stopped school bus Sept. 7, 2017, in Augusta; $250 fine.

Stephanie Joanne Guziec, 29, of Monmouth, operating under the influence July 26, 2017, in Monmouth; $500 fine, 48-hour jail sentence, 150-day license suspension.

Jessica L. Hall, 29, of Livermore, refusing to submit to arrest or detention physical force Oct. 7, 2017, in Winthrop; 10-day jail sentence; violating condition of release Oct. 7, 2017, in Winthrop; 10-day jail sentence; assault, same date and town, dismissed.

Devon H. Handley, 19, of Sidney, use of drug paraphernalia Oct. 27, 2017, in Sidney; $350 fine.

Logan J. Hight Harvey, 25, of Springfield, assault Aug. 15, 2017, in Waterville; $500 fine; assault, same date and town, dismissed.

Nathaniel A. Hinnant, 37, of Portland, criminal trespass Sept. 11, 2017, in Waterville, dismissed.

Elizabeth G. Hladik, 26, of Waterville, assault Oct. 21, 2017, in Waterville; $400 fine, $100 restitution.

Chelsea L. Janelle, 32, of Auburn, operating while license suspended or revoked July 14, 2017, in Gardiner, dismissed.

Benjamin J. Lajoie, 26, of Vassalboro, domestic violence assault Oct. 31, 2017, in Waterville, dismissed.

Marcelo Landaeta, 39, of Mount Vernon, operating under the influence April 17, 2017, in Belgrade; $500 fine.

Helenna V. Le, 31, of Waterville, failure to register vehicle Oct. 16, 2017, in Waterville, dismissed.

Dakota J. Leeman, 26, of Washington, motor vehicle speeding more than 30 mph over speed limit Aug. 22, 2017, in China, dismissed.

Stephen Carl Levesque, 48, of Blaine, commercial vehicle rule violation: operation with false duty status Oct. 6, 2017, in West Gardiner; $500 fine.

Gregory Marra, 43, of Palermo, operating under the influence Oct. 19, 2017, in Augusta; $500 fine, 150-day license suspension.

Matthew P. Mason, 35, of Gardiner, unlawful possession of scheduled drug April 8, 2017, in Hallowell; $400 fine, $400 suspended, four-day jail sentence.

Zachary Mason, 27, of North New Portland, failure to register vehicle Oct. 24, 2017, in Waterville, dismissed.

Albert J. Massey III, 62, of Richmond, operating under the influence May 24, 2017, in Gardiner; $500 fine.

Linden E. Mayo, 52, of Windsor, attaching false plates Oct. 6, 2017, in Chelsea; $100 fine.

Alec Z. Niemy, 26, of Sidney, criminal threatening Dec. 1, 2017, in Augusta; 48-hour jail sentence.

Samantha L. Peaslee, 26, of Vassalboro, domestic violence assault and violating condition of release July 15, 2017, in Vassalboro, dismissed.

Adam D. Purington, 37, of Gardiner, operating while license suspended or revoked and violating condition of release Jan. 29, 2016, in Randolph, dismissed.

Tracy Lynn Purington, 53, of Chelsea, theft by deception May 18, 2017, in Waterville; $200 fine.

Matthew W. Quinn, 22, of Winslow, operating vehicle without license Oct. 24, 2017, in Waterville, dismissed.

Lorenzo L. Rayford, 25, of Winslow, domestic violence assault Dec. 2, 2017, in Waterville; 364-day jail sentence all but four days suspended, two-year probation; domestic violence assault, same date and town, dismissed.

Stacey L. Roberts, 43, of Farmingdale, operating vehicle without license — conditions/restrictions Oct. 20, 2017, in Augusta; $100 fine.

Emmanuel P. Rocque III, 40, of Augusta, two counts of unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs Dec. 9, 2016; two counts of aggravated trafficking of scheduled drugs Dec. 20, 2016, and two counts of criminal conspiracy, one each on Dec. 20, 2016 and Nov. 15, 2016; all in Augusta; dismissed.

Hannah M. Senior, 19, of Clinton, allowing minor to possess or consume liquor Oct. 27, 2017, in Clinton; $500 fine; allowing minor to possess or consume liquor, same date and town, dismissed.

Nichol Sheets, 32, of Waterville, failure to register vehicle Oct. 16, 2017, in Waterville; $100 fine.

Ryan A. Simonds, 40, of Weaver, commercial vehicle rule violation: operation with false duty status Sept. 8, 2017, in West Gardiner; $500 fine.

Arnold Smith Jr., 55, of Vassalboro, aggravated criminal trespass and unlawful sexual contact, April 18, 2015, in Vassalboro, dismissed.

Kathleen Sobo, 31, of Biddeford, failure to register vehicle Oct. 1, 2017, in West Gardiner, dismissed.

Nicklas J. Stewart, 39, of Winthrop, domestic violence assault, priors, Jan. 31, 2017, in Winthrop, dismissed.

Nawaf Galib Khammas Al-Sukaini, 33, of Westbrook, motor vehicle speeding more than 30 mph over speed limit March 11, 2017, in Litchfield; $700 fine.

Adam W. Thomas, 41, of Sanderson, Florida, use of drug paraphernalia Oct. 21, 2017, in Winslow; $300 fine.

David Thompson, 27, of Chelsea, operating under the influence Sept. 15, 2017, in Augusta; $500 fine, 48-hour jail sentence, 150-day license suspension.

Donald Robert True Sr., 50, of Winthrop, violating protection from abuse order June 19, 2017, in Monmouth; 180-day jail sentence all suspended, one-year probation.

Maranda M. Walker, 25, of Augusta, operating under the influence Jan. 25, 2017, in Augusta; $900 fine, 90-day jail sentence all but 12 days suspended, one-year probation, three-year license suspension; operating while license suspended or revoked Jan. 25, 2017, in Augusta; $500 fine, $500 suspended.

Paul T. White Jr., 30, of Winslow, operating vehicle without license — conditions/restrictions Oct. 20, 2017, in Winslow; $100 fine.

Irma J. Wilhelm, 82, of Hallowell, motor vehicle speeding more than 30 mph over speed limit April 6, 2017, in Windsor, dismissed.

Jeffrey W. Worthing, 23, of Manchester, gross sexual assault March 12, 2016, domestic violence reckless conduct Aug. 1, 2015, and domestic violence assault Jan. 1, 2015, in Readfield, dismissed.

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 15:07:27 +0000
New evacuations ordered as Southern California wildfire flares up Sun, 10 Dec 2017 18:05:29 +0000 LOS ANGELES — A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday, as wind-fanned flames churned through canyons and down hillsides toward coastal towns.

Crews with help from water-dropping aircraft saved several homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze churning deeper into foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven’t burned in decades. New evacuations were ordered in Carpinteria, a seaside city in Santa Barbara County that has been under fire threat for days.

“The winds are kind of squirrely right now,” said county fire spokesman Mike Eliason. “Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it’s blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we’re in.”

The department posted a photo of one residence engulfed in flames before dawn. It’s unclear whether other structures burned. Thousands of homes in the county were without power.

Firefighters made significant progress Saturday on other fronts of the enormous fire that started Dec. 4 in neighboring Ventura County. Containment was way up on other major blazes in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Forecasters said Santa Ana winds that whipped fires across the region last week were expected to die down later Sunday – but not before creating possible gusts topping 50 mph.

A lack of rain has officials on edge statewide because of parched conditions and no end in sight to the typical fire season.

“This is the new normal,” Gov. Jerry Brown warned Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura fire. “We’re about ready to have firefighting at Christmas. This is very odd and unusual.”

High fire risk is expected to last into January and the governor and experts said climate change is making it a year-round threat.

Overall, the fires have destroyed nearly 800 homes and other buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced more than 200,000 people to flee flames that have burned over 270 square miles since Dec. 4. One death, so far, a 70-year-old woman who crashed her car on an evacuation route, is attributed to the fire in Santa Paula, a small city where the fire began.

The Ventura County blaze continued to burn into rugged mountains in the Los Padres National Forest near the little town of Ojai and toward a preserve established for endangered California condors.

As fires burned in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, firefighters were already in place north of San Diego on Thursday when a major fire erupted and rapidly spread in the Fallbrook area, known for its avocado groves and horse stables in the rolling hills.

The fire swept through the San Luis Rey Training Facility, where it killed more than 40 elite thoroughbreds and destroyed more than 100 homes — most of them in a retirement community. Three people were burned trying to escape the fire that continued to smolder Sunday.

Most of last week’s fires were in places that burned in the past, including one in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air that burned six homes and another in the city’s rugged foothills above the community of Sylmar and in Santa Paula.

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Collins says Senate will face tough decision if Moore wins Alabama seat Sun, 10 Dec 2017 17:09:38 +0000 U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. R-Maine, said Sunday that the Senate will face a tough ethical question if Roy Moore wins the special election Tuesday in Alabama for the seat formerly occupied by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In an appearance on the CBS News talk show “Face the Nation,” she also said she is waiting to see the final version of the Republican tax reform plan before she decides whether to support it.

Collins said she is disappointed the Republican National Committee resumed its support last week for the scandal-plagued Moore, who faces allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls.

“I think that is a mistake,” said Collins.

She said she never supported Moore’s candidacy even before the allegations surfaced, because of his positions against Muslims, LGBT rights and his two-time removal from the Alabama Supreme Court. Collins said Republicans care as much as Democrats about stopping sexual misconduct and she has joined a group of senators who are reviewing Capital Hill procedures to address the subject.

Collins said the Senate will face a difficult decision on whether to try to remove Moore from office on ethical grounds if he is elected to the Senate. She said it is a different situation when sexual misconduct allegations surface against someone already in office than when they are made against a candidate who then goes on to win in spite of the allegations.

“If the allegations are known prior to the election, then we have a very tough decision to make about whether it is our role as senators to overturn the will of the people,” she said.

Commenting on tax reform legislation, Collins repeated concerns she raised last week about the competing House and Senate bills.

Collins has become a regular on the Sunday news talk show circuit this year because she wields critical swing votes on health care, tax cuts and other issues. She also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A conference committee is currently trying to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the tax reform legislation. Collins, who voted for the Senate bill, said she will not decide on whether to support the conference committee’s bill until she sees the final proposal. She said the commitments she received from Republican leadership and President Trump to support her amendments to the Senate tax bill, such as the retention of medical expense deductions, will be honored and approved.

She also said she is confident the bill will not contain cuts to Medicare.

“I have written correspondence (from the Republican leadership) that memorializes the agreement that the cut that could go into effect will not go into effect. I don’t want seniors to have the anxiety that the tax bill will trigger a cut in Medicare,” Collins said on “Face the Nation.”

Maine’s senior senator also said she has had repeated commitments from the Republicans and Trump that the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing payments, which are made to insurers to help hold down co-payments and deductibles for low- and middle-income people, will be retained.

“I have talked with the president three times on this issue. I have no reason to believe that commitment will not be kept. Who wants to see health insurance premiums become more unaffordable than they are?” said Collins.

Despite Collins’ optimism surrounding the Republican tax plan, her constituents back in Maine continue to criticize her position.

There have been three protests since last Monday at or inside her offices in Bangor and Portland, and several people, including nine members of the Maine clergy, have been arrested and charged with criminal trespass. The unrest over her support of the plan surfaced again Sunday in front of her house in Bangor.

About 20 protesters stood outside her home during a peaceful demonstration. No one was arrested, but organizer Clare Mundell of Bangor said the protests will continue until Collins withdraws her support of the Republican tax plan.

Mundell said the group she belongs to, Indivisible Bangor, has tried on several occasions to persuade Collins to hold a town hall in Bangor, but without success. According to its Facebook page, Indivisible Bangor is a group of Bangor-area residents who resist the Trump agenda.

“We figure if she won’t come to us, we’d go to her,” Mundell said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.


]]> 0, 11 Dec 2017 07:36:36 +0000
Who is voting for Roy Moore? Many top Alabama Republicans Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:51:52 +0000
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Most Republican leaders in Alabama say they plan to vote for Roy Moore on Tuesday, despite sexual misconduct allegations against the former judge that have prompted others around the country to say he should never be allowed to join the U.S. Senate.”I have stated both publicly and privately over the last month that unless these allegations were proven to be true I would continue to plan to vote for the Republican nominee, Judge Roy Moore,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. “I have already cast my absentee ballot and I voted for Judge Moore.”The accusations against Moore have left many Republican voters and leaders in a quandary. Voters face the decision of whether to vote for Moore, accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers decades ago when he was a county prosecutor, or sending Democrat Doug Jones to Washington, which would narrow Republicans’ already precarious majority in the Senate.

They also could write in a name on their ballots or simply stay home. Meanwhile, most Republican politicians in the state must run for re-election next year – where they will face Moore’s enthusiastic voting base at the polls.

The AP tried to find out how Republican leaders from Alabama plan to vote. Most officeholders or their staffs responded, while others have publicly stated their plans during public appearances or to other media outlets.

However, several officeholders did not respond to calls, emails or texts from the AP. They include U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, Mike Rogers and Gary Palmer, as well as state Treasurer Young Boozer and state House Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

State officeholders who said they intended to vote for Moore often cited the need to keep the seat in Republican hands.

In addition to Merrill, others who plan to vote for Moore include Gov. Kay Ivey; Attorney General Steve Marshall; state Auditor Jim Zeigler; Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan; state Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh; and Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, who previously led the state Republican Party. Also voting for Moore are current state party head Terry Lathan and U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks of Huntsville and Robert Aderholt of Haleyville.

The state’s most influential politician, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, has said he wrote in a prominent Republican on his absentee ballot.

“I wrote in a distinguished Republican. I did not vote for Judge Moore, but I voted Republican,” Shelby said. His decision has played prominently in Jones ads pointing out Republicans who are not voting for their party’s nominee.

CNN reported last month that U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne said he will vote Republican and that he does not cast write-in votes. In a statement to the AP, Byrne said it is up to voters to decide.

“Some serious allegations have been made and Judge Moore has vehemently denied them. Frankly, I don’t think the people of Alabama want me, any national politician, or the national news media telling them what to think or how to vote,” Byrne said in the statement. “The decision is ultimately up to the people of Alabama to evaluate the information they have before them and make an informed decision. We must respect the voters’ decision.”

Sen. Luther Strange, who lost to Moore in the Republican primary, did not respond to a request for comment from AP, but told The Washington Post recently that the election is up to voters.

“I’m staying out of it now. I think everybody knows how I feel about Judge Moore. We made our case and the voters made a different decision,” Strange told the newspaper in a video on its website.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned from the Senate to join the Trump administration, declined to say how he would vote. Moore and Jones are competing for his old job.

“There have been some ads that may have suggested I endorsed a candidate, that is not so,” Sessions said. “I believe that the people of Alabama will make their own decision.”

State party loyalty rules could prohibit a Republican politician, or someone who aspires to be one, from publicly backing Moore’s opponent. The rule says anyone who openly supports another party’s nominee over a Republican could be barred from running as a Republican in the future.

Ivey became governor earlier this year after Robert Bentley resigned amid a sex scandal involving a much younger female political aide. When reached by the AP, Bentley declined to say who he is voting for Tuesday.

Ivey said last month that she has no reason to disbelieve the women who have accused Moore and is bothered by their allegations. But Ivey, who plans to run for governor in 2018, said she will vote for Moore anyway for the sake of Republican power in Congress. Her office did not respond to a request for an updated comment.

]]> 0, 10 Dec 2017 22:17:13 +0000
New ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres to cheers and praise Sun, 10 Dec 2017 14:30:56 +0000
LOS ANGELES — There were cheers, gasps, droid photo opportunities, casino games and more than a few standing ovations at the jam-packed world premiere of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Saturday night in Los Angeles, which many are already praising online. Rian Johnson, the writer and director of the eighth installment of the franchise, dedicated the night to the late Carrie Fisher, who died after filming had completed.
“She’s up there flipping the bird and saying, ‘Don’t bring this night down with solemn tributes,’” Johnson said on stage at the Shrine Auditorium. It was in that spirit that Johnson excitedly introduced his cast, including Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac. Hamill and composer John Williams, who Johnson called one of the “greatest living film composers” were among the few who got standing ovations.
“Let’s watch a Star Wars movie!” Johnson exclaimed as the cast took their seats, the lights dimmed and the yellow Star Wars logo and iconic scrawl appeared on screen to signal the start of the film. The enthusiastic audience laughed and cheered throughout much of the two-and-a-half-hour film. One audience member even shrieked “What?!” at a key scene deep in the film.
The elaborate premiere featured a massive assault vehicle and a procession of Stormtroopers and droids that preceded the first showing of the film in advance of its Dec. 15 release. The mood was joyous and pregnant with anticipation for the highly anticipated and guarded film, which sees the return of Hamill’s Luke Skywalker as well as Fisher’s final performance.

Daisy Ridley arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Formal reviews won’t be out for a few days, but journalists and others at the screening who shared their initial reactions online said “The Last Jedi” packed the adventure expected in a Star Wars film, but took it into new territory.

J.J. Abrams, who directed 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and will return to direct Episode IX told The Associated Press that the film was “great” and that “Rian killed it.”

“Logan” director James Mangold also praised the film’s director, calling the movie “a great chapter of a blockbuster franchise,” that also had Johnson’s “voice shining through.”

Producer Adam F. Goldberg wrote that the film made him feel like a kid again.

Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican said the film “will shatter you and then make you feel whole again.”

Many who posted online about the premiere said they were still processing the film.

Attendees at Saturday’s premiere were the first people outside the cast, filmmakers and top executives at Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm who had seen “The Last Jedi.” Director Edgar Wright, Patton Oswalt, Greta Gerwig, “Stranger Things” actor Gaten Matarazzo, and Constance Zimmer were among the attendees Saturday.

Wright, who makes a cameo appearance in the film as a rebel, added on Twitter that the film was, “Really great.”

At the after-party, which was modeled after Canto Bight, a casino-based city in the Star Wars galaxy seen in “The Last Jedi,” attendees could play blackjack, roulette and craps to win commemorative Star Wars pins.

Fans at the premiere were also treated to up-close looks at new characters, including an elite squad of guards clad in red armor as well as a collection of droids, including the droids C-3PO, R2-D2, and BB-8, who walked and rolled down the red carpet before the film’s stars arrived.

“It’s a Star Wars movie, and the energy tonight is pretty amazing,” said a beaming Andy Serkis, who plays the villain Supreme Leader Snoke.

Ridley, who plays Rey, arrived wearing a shimmering dress adorned with stars. Ridley was in good spirits, saying about her dress, “I mean, it’s just fun. It’s fun. And I feel fun. And it’s got stars on it.”

Newcomer Kelly Marie Tran wore a bright red dress with a lengthy train behind it. John Boyega, who earlier in the day tweeted that he might miss the premiere because a snowstorm had snarled travel out of Atlanta, arrived sporting a dark blue tuxedo and turtleneck.

Secrecy about the film remained in place on the red carpet. Anthony Daniels, who plays C-3PO, told a reporter looking for details on the film, “I’m going to let you work out everything for yourself.”

“The Last Jedi,” which arrives in theaters on Dec. 15, is one of the year’s biggest releases. Early box office projections are for the film to debut in the $200 million range for its first weekend.

]]> 0, 10 Dec 2017 17:15:58 +0000
Man detained by police after standoff in Waterville closed down College Avenue neighborhood Sun, 10 Dec 2017 13:34:31 +0000 WATERVILLE — A man was detained by police late Sunday morning following an hours-long standoff with authorities that ended dramatically when officers fired several rounds of non-lethal pepper balls to disable him.

Michael Joslyn, 23, initiated the nearly 13-hours-long standoff with police when he refused to leave his College Avenue apartment building after earlier firing several gunshots through the floor in the direction of his landlord, with whom Deputy Chief Bill Bonney said Joslyn was having a dispute. Bonney also said Joslyn was intoxicated at the time he fired the shots, which totaled about a half-dozen when the standoff ceased.

At some time between 11 and 11:20 a.m., Bonney said Joslyn came out of the house without a weapon, but was still not cooperating with officials. He went back into the house and back outside several more times until a tactical team was able to detain him without injury by deploying their pepper-ball system, firing several rounds until Joslyn was subdued. There appeared to be about 20 to 30 law enforcement officers in total.

Joslyn was charged Sunday afternoon with three counts of aggravated reckless conduct, aggravated criminal mischief, both of which are felony charges; refusing to submit to arrest and creating a police standoff, which are misdemeanors. He was then transferred to Kennebec County jail where his bail was set at $6,000 total. A clerk at the jail said Joslyn is expected to be in court tomorrow for arraignment.

Richard Beaulieu, 22, watched the morning’s dramatic events unfold from the balcony of his third floor apartment on the corner of Sturtevant Street and College Avenue. Beaulieu said he began watching the standoff around 6 a.m. until the police made the arrest. He said for about three hours Joslyn could be seen coming in and out of the building. Beaulieu said Joslyn went back and forth between the yard, the porch and back inside the house. At one point, Joslyn walked all way to the fire hydrant just before the street before retreating back to the porch.

“He was walking down to the street like 20 feet away from them (police.) I couldn’t believe it,” Beaulieu said.

Not long after that, Beaulieu said, the police made their move.

“He was standing there with his hands up and they told him to get down, and all that stuff, and he probably ended up kneeling down for a good 10 minutes. All of a sudden, they started yelling, ‘Get down! Get down!’ again and then (they) (expletive) just lit him up with that (pepper ball) gun,” Beaulieu said. “They probably got him like at least 15 times. They went down checked him out and hauled him (off) right away.”

The incident had prompted police to shut down a portion of upper College Avenue for about 13 hours until the standoff was over. During that time, officers directed traffic to go around the perimeter.

Officers from Fairfield, Oakland and Waterville were all on the scene at some point during the standoff.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said law enforcement responded to a call at 8:55 p.m. Saturday from the person who owns the apartment building located at 124 College Ave., saying the upstairs tenant fired three or four rounds that traveled through the floor and into the first floor apartment.

Police were able to clear out the landlord and make contact with Joslyn, who refused to leave and barricaded himself inside the apartment. At that point, Joslyn was the only person inside the apartment building for the duration.

Massey said that at some point during the night Saturday and early hours of Sunday morning, the suspect fired three or four more rounds, firing six or seven shots in total.

Bonney said negotiators were in contact with Joslyn throughout the night Saturday and Sunday morning but were disconnected with Joslyn several times.

During the late morning, the man could be seen coming in and out of the building. He initially held his hands in the air, as if readying to surrender, before turning back and staying on a porch outside the apartment.

Around 11:30 a.m., officers inched down College Avenue and approached the porch and appeared to fire several rounds of non-lethal pepper balls at Joslyn, disabling him and arresting him.

Over the last several years, Joslyn has had multiple run-ins with law enforcement. Bonney said Joslyn was summonsed in November for threatening. Earlier in the year, in September, he paid a $200 fine for criminal trespassing in Waterville. In 2016, he was arrested in Waterville and charged with disorderly conduct and violation of condition of release. In March 2015, Joslyn was arrested in Winslow on charges of minor consuming liquor and possession of marijuana. He was later fined $350 for the marijuana charge. In January of that year, he was arrested on two warrants for unpaid fines and fees and charged with minor consuming liquor.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

Twitter: EmilyHigg

]]> 0 police arrest Michael Joslyn, left, at 124 College Ave. in Waterville on Sunday after police shot pepper-balls to subdue Joslyn after a 13-hour standoff at the apartment.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:35:40 +0000
Conflict erupts in Wiscasset over state’s decisions about Route 1 project Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 WISCASSET — Keith Oehmig has owned and operated the Wiscasset Bay Gallery in the heart of this town’s historic village for 33 years, but he’s certain that if the state’s controversial traffic project goes ahead, he and many other shopkeepers will be driven away, turning the center of the “Prettiest Little Village in Maine” into a ghost town.

“If we lose on-street parking in town, it will be disastrous for all the businesses on Main Street,” says Oehmig. “There are solutions that are much better, but they are just hell-bent on doing this.”

Keith Oehmig, longtime owner of Wiscasset Bay Gallery, opposes MDOT’s plan: “If we lose on-street parking in town, it will be disastrous for all the businesses on Main Street.” Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Directly across Main Street at Birch, a 2-year-old home furnishings store, co-owner Brad Sevaldson sees the same project as downtown’s salvation, a chance to have the state repair and spiff up the sidewalks of this cash-strapped town, while making the state road safer for motorists and pedestrians alike.

“This is going to improve our curb appeal and help attract younger families and people to town,” he insists. “We look at the state as giving us a gift because this is something Wiscasset couldn’t afford to do.”

Brad Sevaldson, co-owner of the Main Street store Birch, favors the proposal: “We look at the state as giving us a gift because this is something Wiscasset couldn’t afford to do.” Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The state government’s latest effort to mitigate one of Maine’s most notorious summertime traffic bottlenecks has bitterly divided this town of 3,700, triggering lawsuits, accusations of duplicitous dealings by Maine Department of Transportation, and heated disagreement between opponents and supporters, including Gov. Paul LePage, who has said he’s had enough of the townspeople’s complaints and would like to build a viaduct right over the area.

“I have given MDOT full authority to fix this nightmare with or without working with Wiscasset,” LePage wrote a constituent in August. “After 65 years of trying to work with Wiscasset, the time has come to move on.”

The village center – a largely intact complex of 18th and 19th century buildings that was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 – is the site of notorious summer traffic jams 2 and 3 miles long as Route 1 traffic winds through the village going to and from the bridge over the Sheepscot River connecting the Boothbay and Damariscotta regions with points south. The state has been trying to solve the problem for more than half a century.

The $5 million state-funded project promises to improve traffic flow during the worst traffic jams by 12 to 14 percent – thereby cutting the length of backups by nearly 60 percent – primarily by adding two traffic lights and “bump out” pedestrian crossing waiting areas in the village. But it’s the elimination of on-street parking on Main Street and parts of key side streets – measures the DOT says account for just 2 to 4 percent flow improvement – that’s generated most of the opposition.

Residents and the select board were initially supportive of the plan, but majorities of both now oppose it because they say the state has not upheld its end of the bargain, breaking key promises. In June, residents revoked their support for what they considered an altered plan in a town referendum 400-323, and the select board did the same, 3-2. The town filed a lawsuit against the DOT on Nov. 28 to stop work from commencing.

Bill Sutter, a Wiscasset native who worked for the DOT for 30 years, became alarmed when he heard the agency had quietly dropped plans to use federal funds to cover 80 percent of the project costs shortly after receiving initial approval from the town in June 2016. Sutter knew the move exempted the project from having to follow federal historic preservation and environmental rules as the department had promised when pitching the project to residents.

“It’s like going back to the failed urban redevelopment experiment of the 1960s, when they went in favor of the automobile and tore down things like Portland’s Union Station,” says Sutter, one of the early opposition leaders. “The people in Wiscasset who support this project are nice people, but I think they’re misguided in what is going on and what the results will be.”


The department lost additional trust when it reversed prior assurances that it would not use eminent domain to execute it. The Haggett Garage – a 1916 structure that was owned by Coastal Enterprises Inc., the community economic development nonprofit – was under contract to be sold to its current tenant, the Midcoast Conservancy, when the DOT intervened to acquire it by eminent domain, intending to knock it down to make way for substitute parking.

“CEI had no choice,” says Ron Phillips, the organization’s founder and longtime CEO, who sat on the board of it and the Midcoast Conservancy at the time. “Neither CEI nor myself had thought the building was at risk, because they said they wouldn’t take properties.”

DOT spokesman Ted Talbot responded that the department had “hoped and relayed that eminent domain would most likely not be necessary,” but he also characterized CEI as “a willing seller” to the state, an assertion Phillips disputes.

Phillips wrote to LePage this June in the hopes of saving the building and preventing the year-round tenants and their nine employees from leaving downtown. He got a blunt email response from the governor, who has to cross the bridge to get from the Blaine House to his Boothbay home.

“We are moving forward because we are convinced Wiscasset has no interest in working with the state to resolve this drastic issue,” LePage wrote June 26. “Next step is doing what was done in Bath – we go over the downtown and by-pass Wiscasset altogether.”

The governor expanded on these themes in another message to Phillips on Aug. 14. “Since 1952, the state has worked with Wiscasset to try and find a solution. Every effort has failed,” LePage wrote. “Between June and September, it takes approximately (give or take a few minutes) 1 hour 20 minutes to go from Augusta to Boothbay. The rest of the year it takes 40 minutes.”

“We get daily complaints and the town simply wants what they want – while the general public is held hostage,” he added. “If it were up to me – I would do what was done in Bath. I’d put a bridge from the post office to the middle of the bridge and by-pass downtown. U.S. 1 is a state responsibility and not the town.”

The governor’s office did not respond to the Maine Sunday Telegram’s request for comment.


Meanwhile, village business and commercial property owners have charged the DOT is intentionally concealing the effect that the loss of on-street parking will have on the downtown.

Ralph Doering, a seasonal resident whose family owns several commercial properties on and near Main Street, hired an attorney and traffic engineer to review project documents acquired from the department via public records requests. They discovered the department had removed language in its own traffic consultant’s report prior to releasing it to the public that predicted “severe impacts” to local businesses. The Maine Sunday Telegram obtained and reviewed the documents.

That draft report by HNTB Corp., the global engineering powerhouse that designed the Maine Turnpike, identified Orono as the best comparison for the effects of removing on-street parking. “Businesses that survived (banks, convenience store, Town offices) had own off-street parking,” the report said. “Nature of Business changed. Several replaced front door with rear door.”

DOT personnel removed most of this language, leaving an upbeat version that suggested everything had gone fine in Orono.

“You don’t have to be a real estate professional to know that if you take parking away from Main Street it’s really detrimental, as businesses will close or they will go out of town to locations where parking is more readily available,” says Doering, whose lawsuit to stop the project was rejected by a lower court on largely technical grounds and is currently on appeal before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. “The MDOT can’t really tell you the truth because the truth doesn’t work.”

Maine Preservation, the Yarmouth-based historic preservation group, agrees. It included the village on its 2017 Maine’s Most Endangered Places list on account of the project, saying it will have a “devastating impact on the viability of businesses in this vibrant commercial district.”

Greg Paxton, the organization’s executive director, says it is also concerned about the department eschewing $4 million in federal funds and the associated historic preservation requirements. “That’s a lot of money to pay to avoid a standard review,” he says.

In a written response, DOT’s Talbot acknowledged the department is avoiding using federal funds but said it is doing so to reduce red tape and delays. “Federal processes, reviews, and associated approvals can add months to project delivery timeframes,” he said, adding that federal funds also restricted generating commercial income from properties they helped develop.

The department declined an interview request because of the town’s pending litigation, answering submitted questions only in written form. It also declined to say what its official position on the effect on Main Street businesses is.

A document on the department’s website dated July 17 states that the HNTB report was edited to remove wording “in areas that went beyond the assigned task” and were part of the “normal process of finalizing studies and reports.”


The town’s lawsuit claims the department is violating state laws requiring it to comply with local zoning and ordinances and asserting it needs to get local permission and permits before it can demolish the Haggett Garage, which the department initially intended to begin taking down last week. The town also alleges the state broke its commitment with the town to draft an agreement that would spell out how ongoing costs associated with the project – such as the maintenance of sidewalks, parking lots and landscaping – will be covered. It is scheduled to be heard in February.

Public documents show the DOT has instructed would-be contractors not to apply for local permits to undertake the demolition. Talbot declined to comment on the issue on account of the lawsuit, but the department has previously maintained that it does not need local approvals.

“They are just hell-bent to get done what they have all planned,” says Katharine Martin-Savage, one of the select board members who voted to file the suit. “I really wish they would be serious enough to sit down and really discuss a compromise of some sort that allows parking on both sides of Main Street.”

But the project has plenty of supporters. The select boards of neighboring Alna and Edgecomb have written the area’s state senator, Republican Dana Dow, asking him not to try to intervene to stop the removal of on-street parking. “When the Legislature emboldens those who will not accept the potential outcomes of a lawful process that is designed to serve us all, it sends a negative and disheartening message to the rest of us who work, live or visit here,” the Nov. 20 letter read.

Supporters who live in the village emphasize what they believe will be improved safety and walkability. “There shouldn’t be parking downtown – it’s surprising that nobody has been killed,” says Lonnie Kennedy-Patterson, who lives near the Haggett Garage and sits on the public advisory committee for the project. “Our sidewalks are falling apart, and it’s going to cost $400,000 to $500,000 to fix them. … Who wouldn’t want their infrastructure updated and not have to use taxpayer dollars?”

DOT concept plans feature widened Main Street sidewalks with new trees, benches, street lamps and outdoor tables. Railroad Avenue, a dirt track running alongside the riverfront north of the bridge, will be paved and expanded to include on-street and lot parking, while Haggett’s will be demolished to create a 29-space lot a hundred yards south of Route 1.

“Once you’ve established a business, people will park their cars a ways away and walk to you, just as they do now for Red’s Eats,” the popular lobster roll eatery next to the bridge, says Judy Flanagan, who was vice chairwoman of the select board when the project was first approved last year. “I just see it as a step forward for the town.” Sevaldson, the owner of Birch, agrees. “It’s important for us to come into the 21st century,” he says. “We don’t have horse and buggies outside our shops anymore. You need to change with the times.”

]]> 0 Oehmig, longtime owner of Wiscasset Bay Gallery, opposes MDOT's plan: "If we lose on-street parking in town, it will be disastrous for all the businesses on Main Street."Sat, 09 Dec 2017 23:08:13 +0000
Maine parody site is far from fake news, and enough readers get the joke Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 In early December, New Maine News reported that climate scientists had determined the cause of the state’s unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snow: a new snowmobile purchased by a man from Rangeley.

The parody news site (think Maine version of The Onion) was, of course, poking fun at a gripe you’re likely to hear by the coffee pots at a corner store – that as soon as you buy an expensive new snow toy, the weather won’t cooperate.

It’s about as believable a news story as “Sexy Paul LePage” being the least popular Halloween costume for seven years in a row, or Portland’s mayor calling out the name of his native New York in bed – other “articles” on the site. But, these days, with ads and click bait posing as news stories, journalism being dismissed as fake news and politicians offering “alternative facts,” it can be hard to tell whether a ridiculous headline is real or, as in this case, satire.

Fortunately for New Maine News creator Seth Macy, enough people get the joke. Macy, a writer and former estate caretaker from Rockland, started the site in October. With an average of 50,000 page views a week and more than 7,300 followers on Facebook, he’s already drummed up enough ad revenue to cover his costs.

Fans say it’s obviously satire and are laughing out loud at New Maine News’ take on the people, trends and quirks unique to Maine. But some critics say the site, which isn’t clearly labeled as satirical content so as not to ruin the joke, helps continue the trend of blurring the line of what’s true and what isn’t, especially when it comes to the internet.

Belfast City Councilor Michael Hurley was upset by a New Maine News story in November that said Belfast was stamping out poverty by making it illegal for poor people to live in the well-heeled tourist town, attributing fake quotes to a real city councilor, Mary Mortier, such as: “Let’s face it, the poor are noble, hard-working and downtrodden, but they also drive their loud trucks through town and shop at places like Walmart.” Macy, who picked Mortier’s name at random from the city’s website, removed it after getting several complaints. She didn’t return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

“I do think the site is funny, but I think it’s sophomoric, to just make up quotes from a real person,” Hurley said. “People read things online and believe what they want. If you look at the comments on (New Maine News), some people believe the stories.”

One of those people is Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling’s mother, who called him to ask what was going on when she saw the story: “Portland City Council Says Mayor Must Pay for Own Top Hat and Sash” – a dig on Strimling for being accused of trying to grab more power than the city charter allows.

Strimling, however, has a sense of humor about it. Both times he was lampooned by the site, he posted the stories from his own Facebook page.

“I thought the pieces were very funny,” he said. “I think parody can get at deeper truths. He (Macy) touched on some of the back and forth, some of the tension, that’s going on with the council.”

Still, people do get fooled by the ever-growing number of parody and fake news sites that post enticing headlines just to get page views, like stories that appeared last year about pop star Katy Perry moving to Portland and a Harry Potter spinoff film being shot in Maine. New Maine News has a motto across its homepage that, to someone unfamiliar with Maine media, could be taken at face value: “Maine’s only trusted source for local real breaking news.” But since satire and parody are included in the First Amendment, Macy is pretty confident what he’s doing is protected speech.

Macy has written satire before, for gaming sites mostly. He’s a big fan of The Onion, probably the best known national satire site. He also remembers, as a youngster in the ’80s, seeing the Maineiac Express — a twice-printed newspaper parody with headlines like “Northern Maine Secedes!” and “Illiteracy declared official second language.”

Macy, 40, grew up on North Haven island near Rockland, where his father is a minister. Married with two children, he has worked as a caretaker of island property and is currently working as a freelance writer for gaming sites like Imagine Games Network and Hard Drive.

He started New Maine News mostly “to write some funny stuff and make my friends laugh.” He doesn’t want his satire to be political, like so much is, but wants to follow The Onion’s lead and lampoon the nuts and bolts of daily life – in his case, daily life in Maine.

“The Onion makes fun of everybody and everything, and that’s what I’m striving to do. I never want my stories to let people know what my politics are,” Macy said.

Macy writes all the satirical stories himself, usually posting one a day with photo-shopped art – like a woman in a winter scene wearing a sleeping bag with arm holes and a headline claiming it’s the season’s “hottest trend.” He pays close attention to Maine news and events, and keeps an eye out for anything that’ll make a funny headline. His advertisers, such as Yopp Skis in Bethel, pay enough to cover the costs of producing the site at home on his computer, including software and WordPress services. He also sells New Maine News hats and T-shirts on the site and has started a campaign on the funding site to raise money to pay people who want to submit satirical articles to New Maine News.

Tim Sample, a veteran Maine humorist known nationally, said he enjoyed several of the stories he saw on New Maine News, including one about Uncle Henry’s new swimsuit issue. It said the venerable Maine publication, where people place ads for everything from firewood to unwanted wedding rings, was putting out an edition listing ads for swimsuits. No pictures, just written ads, including one for a “lace-up flower 2-piece,” $140 or best offer, in Rumford.

Sample thinks parody is getting harder and harder to do, because some of the things happening in the world – like the president’s Twitter usage – already seem like something a comedian might dream up.

“Parody is an interesting form of humor, very hit-and-miss, and it depends largely on how familiar someone is with the subject, and what their own views on it are,” Sample said. “For parody to work, you need an agreed-upon norm and then you have to exaggerate that. But today it’s hard to find an agreed-upon norm about anything, or something that doesn’t already seem like exaggeration.”

]]> 0, ME - NOVEMBER 9: Seth Macy created and writes pieces for the satirical website New Maine News, which pokes fun at all things Maine. Macy is photographed at his Rockland home on Thursday, November 9, 2017.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:57:09 +0000
Wave of immigrants brings ‘richness,’ rapid change to Maine’s classrooms Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 LEWISTON — Pointing to the words on the page, Ja’Syiah Doyle reads out “I . . . am . . . a . . . CROC-odile!” then tips her head sideways and turns on her megawatt grin to kindergarten teacher Lynn Adams. “Beautiful! That’s right,” Adams tells her.

Across the table, Jaycob Costello takes his turn: “Ba . . . Ba . . . Big!” he reads, twisting his feet around the legs of his small chair as he concentrates. “Sssssmall!”

Adams’ class is a typical kindergarten class in Maine, where the lessons are focused on teaching students about colors, numbers, shapes and letters.

But a huge difference is the students themselves: In the whitest state in the nation, 75 percent of the students here at Longley Elementary School are minorities, mostly in families of immigrants who have arrived in Maine within the last 20 years. By contrast, 15 years ago, minorities made up just over 15 percent of the students at Longley.

Recent waves of immigrants coming to Maine have rapidly changed the racial makeup of schools, with huge impacts on state education funding and potentially altering Maine’s economic future.

As local districts quickly moved to provide new supports and services to immigrants, state funding for English Language Learners – or ELL students – has almost tripled in the last dozen years, according to the Maine Department of Education.

In 2006, the state allocated $7.9 million in ELL funds for 3,128 students. This year, the state allocated $19 million in ELL funds for 5,349 students.

Longley Elementary has seen the biggest change in racial makeup between 2000 and 2015, going from 83 percent white in 2000-2001 to 23 percent white in 2014-15, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal enrollment demographics data. In Maine, the data reflect how racial diversity that was initially clustered in bigger cities like Portland and Lewiston is moving into smaller towns and suburbs.

In 2000, only 18 Maine schools had fewer than 90 percent white students. In 2014-15, there were 50 such schools – and at five of those schools, white students made up less than half the student body.

“When arrivals started arriving in Lewiston, roughly around 2000, there was no crystal ball about what was coming. Nor were there any programs in place, or any awareness of what programs would be needed,” said Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster.


The new student demographics have been welcomed as the state’s population ages and officials fear the impacts of a growing shortage of workers. A 2016 report from the Maine Development Foundation and state Chamber of Commerce similarly said the economy will suffer if Maine fails to attract, integrate and train more immigrants.

According to that report, new immigrants and their children are expected to account for 83 percent of the growth in the U.S. workforce from 2000 to 2050.

“Our first influx of ELL students are now graduating from college and entering the workforce, and a number of them have been very successful. I want to encourage more of them to go into teaching and education as a profession and, at some point, to return to Lewiston and teach,” Webster said.

That’s one of the state’s top priorities, too, said a Maine Department of Education specialist who works with districts on issues involving English language learners.

“We’re putting a lot of energy into how to bring new Mainers into education,” said April Perkins. “New Mainers are an amazing pool of people in our state and contribute to our education system in really important ways,” such as linguistic and cultural knowledge.

Webster said he’s seen a change in downtown Lewiston, fueled by entrepreneurial immigrants.

According to U.S. Census data, the number of foreign-born immigrants living in Maine increased by about 8,000 people between 2000 and 2015. Over the same period, the number of Mainers born in Africa increased from 1,067 people to 5,791.

“I think Lewiston’s future is much brighter because of the influx. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges,” Webster said. But he can see the influence in the wider city. In recent months, three immigrants ran – unsuccessfully – for the school committee. A street that was previously full of shuttered businesses is now a mix of ethnic groceries, restaurants and other open businesses. There are approximately 7,500 immigrants in Lewiston.

“I find it quite exciting to see,” Webster said.


In the school system, the immigrant population is seen as more highly engaged than traditional families, with a sharper focus on academic success.

“Immigrants see education as their ticket to the American dream,” Webster said.

“In all my years, I have heard more thank-yous from the Somali families than anyone else,” Adams said. “They really value education.”

Lynn Adams, a kindergarten teacher for more than four decades, answers pupils’ questions at Longley Elementary School in Lewiston. The immigrant families she has interacted with “really value education,” Adams says. “In all my years, I have heard more thank-yous from the Somali families than anyone else.” Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

That is a change from earlier years in Lewiston, which saw a rash of anti-immigrant violence soon after 2000 when thousands of Somali immigrants arrived. In 2002, the mayor sent a letter to the Somali community asking them to discourage their friends and family from moving to Lewiston, saying, “Our city is maxed-out financially, physically and emotionally.”

Then an out-of-state white supremacist group seized upon the upheaval to hold an anti-immigrant rally. Three years after the rally, a pig’s head was thrown into a local mosque. The act was widely condemned, the governor at the time visited Lewiston to denounce the act, and police quickly charged the perpetrator.

That level of angst and anger has passed, Webster and others say.

For school communities, a diverse school setting is now seen as a learning opportunity.

“What a richness of experience that is for all of our students,” said South Portland Superintendent Ken Kunin. About 25 percent of South Portland students today are not white. “Our students are growing up in Maine, but they are getting an experience that prepares them to work in a diverse world. We see that as a tremendous advantage,” Kunin said.

Kunin, who experienced the first wave of immigrant students as a principal in Portland, said immigrants started moving to South Portland in recent years when the cost of living in Portland got too expensive. But that’s starting to change.

“We’re losing families to Westbrook because there is more housing there,” Kunin said.


Westbrook saw its percentage of white students drop from 95 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2014, according to the data.

Schools have to hire teachers for English language learners and provide space for ELL instruction. In districts with a large number of ELL students, they may need ELL directors or coordinators, or hire translators.

In Portland, for example, one in four students is an English language learner and the district has a multilingual and multicultural center that provides translation services, a family welcome center to centralize paperwork and a college preparation program tailored for multilingual students. The center also holds special student financial aid nights and cultural events during the year.

Center Director Grace Valenzuela said she remembers joining the district in 1987, when there were only 150 ELL students and five other languages being spoken in the district, mostly from Southeast Asia. Today there are 1,739 ELL students who come from homes where about 60 different languages are spoken.

“It’s been sustained growth,” Valenzuela said. Portland, she said, has always been welcoming for immigrants and the district’s programs reflect a close partnership with immigrant families.

“I think that’s why people come to Portland and that’s the reason they stay,” she said.

Substitute teacher Zainab Hussein, center, supervises in the Longley Elementary School cafeteria last week. “When arrivals started arriving in Lewiston, roughly around 2000, there was no crystal ball about what was coming. Nor were there any programs in place, or any awareness of what programs would be needed,” said Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup


But the demographic shift has played out differently at Portland’s two largest high schools, where students can choose to attend any high school no matter where they live.

Traditionally, Portland High School in downtown Portland has been the most ethnically diverse. But the percentage of black students at Deering High, located off the peninsula, increased from 2 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2014 – a 1,300 percent increase. Valenzuela said she believes that’s because Deering has adopted a new global competency model, a schedule that allows in-depth study of a few subjects at a time, and a new agreement with the Metro bus system that allows students to ride city buses for free, easing transportation issues.

At Portland High School, the percentage of black students didn’t even double during that same period, going from 14 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2014.

Portland’s neighborhood elementary schools reflect the demographics of their local neighborhoods.

The local elementary school in the traditionally diverse Munjoy Hill neighborhood – Jack Elementary in 2000 and East End Community School in 2014 – saw its black student enrollment quadruple from 10 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2014. But the whitest elementary school – Longfellow Elementary in the Deering Center neighborhood, next door to Deering High – saw its black student enrollment barely budge from 3 percent in 2000 to 5 percent in 2014.

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

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> eat breakfast at Longley Elementary School in Lewiston before the start of class last week. The school's demographic makeup has changed dramatically since 2000; now, more than 75 percent of its students are minorities, many of them new arrivals to America.Mon, 11 Dec 2017 07:48:00 +0000
Out-of-state riders boost snowmobile registrations Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Michelle Vincent lives in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. But on winter weekends she can be found on the snowmobile trails of northern Maine.

“To be honest with you, I don’t ride in Massachusetts,” she said. “We haven’t had a winter in Massachusetts in three years. You can get on a trail in Maine and ride all the way to Canada.”

Vincent and other out-of-state riders have helped boost Maine snowmobile registrations by 11 percent over the past five years, according to data from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. More than 23,000 nonresidents registered snowmobiles in Maine last winter – the second-largest total in 25 years.

And riders from away are accounting for a growing percentage of annual snowmobile registrations in Maine. In 2000, 15 percent of registrants were from out of state; last winter, 27.3 percent were nonresidents.

“Most of my peers ride in Maine,” said Melvin Bertram of the Lunenburg Snow Riders in central Massachusetts, a group that makes an annual trip to the Moosehead region. “You’ve got to go where the snow is.”

Snowmobilers contribute an estimated $350 million annually to Maine’s economy, according to Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association. A portion of registration fees go toward helping to maintain 14,500 miles of snowmobile trails in the state.

Maine requires all snowmobile operators – regardless of where they reside – to register their sleds if they want to ride here. Residents pay a flat $46 for the season. Out-of-staters pay $100 for a full season, $76 for a 10-day pass and $50 for a three-day pass.

The prime attraction, of course, is the snow. While many areas of the Northeast have had several below-average snow seasons in the past decade, northern Maine is becoming a destination spot for snowmobilers. Caribou, in Aroostook County, has recorded more than 100 inches of snow in six of the past seven winters. In 2016 – the warmest winter on record in northern Maine – 95 inches fell in Caribou. The same winter, upstate New York received 55 inches, New Hampshire 35 and Vermont 34.

“At least 80 percent of the time (in winter) we have at least a foot of snow,” said Francis Kredensor of the National Weather Service in Caribou. “There is almost always enough here to have safe snowmobiling.”

‘hard-core for their sport’

While snowmobile registrations are up in Maine, they have declined in much of the Northeast over the past five years. New Hampshire has seen a 15 percent increase, but registrations are down by 16 percent in Massachusetts, 7.5 percent in New York and 2 percent in Vermont.

Last winter, 85,035 sleds were registered in Maine, the highest total since 2011. It was a 44 percent leap from 2016, after registrations plunged to 59,111 during that historically warm winter. Despite that blip, Maine has exceeded 76,000 registrations in four of the past five years.

Bob Casey, trailmaster for the Windham Drifters Snowmobile Club, drives a trail marker into the ground as fellow club member Ted O’Brien holds it upright Saturday as they prepped some of the club’s 45 miles of trails for the season. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh


Bob Casey, trailmaster for the Windham Drifters Snowmobile Club, drives a trail marker into the ground as fellow club member Ted O’Brien holds it upright Saturday as they prepped some of the club’s 45 miles of trails for the season. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Registrants from Massachusetts accounted for 43 percent of the out-of-staters last winter, followed by New Hampshire (18 percent) and Connecticut (11 percent).

But word of northern Maine’s snowpack has spread beyond the Northeast, Meyers said. Last winter’s snowmobile registrants came from as far away as Texas (26 sleds), California (14), Arizona (4) and even Hawaii (1).

“I had a lengthy phone conversation with a man from North Carolina,” Meyers said. “He’s bringing his whole clan up here. Half the clan is going skiing and other half wants to try Millinocket or The Forks, to rent (snowmobiles) and hire guides.”

But Meyers cautions that Maine may be “reaching the ceiling on both resident and nonresident registrations.” He cites the cost of snowmobiles, which range from $7,000 to $12,000. Registration in Maine reached its peak in 2002 with 107,285 riders before declining throughout the next decade, particularly during the recession.

Snowmobile sales have been down nationally since 2006, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association in Haslett, Michigan. After reaching a peak of 170,000 in 1997, 50,659 snowmobiles were sold in the U.S. last winter. The organization does not keep data by state or region.

At Reynolds Motorsports in Buxton, one of southern Maine’s biggest dealers, sales manager Ozzy Osmond said sales last winter were up 15 percent to 20 percent. He attributes it to the improved economy.

“Snowmobilers are hard-core for their sport,” Osmond said. “They want to have a new one every other year. They’re serious. They buy their sleds here and then they go up north to ride.”

Snowmobiles are on display at Reynolds Motorsports in Buxton, one of southern Maine’s biggest dealers. Sales manager Ozzy Osmond said last winter’s sales were up as much as 20 percent. Staff photo by Ben McCanna


Snowmobilers in southern Maine agree the sledding is best up north.

Terry Webber of the Gorham Sno Goers, which maintains 50 miles of trails around Gorham, said the riding in southern Maine can’t compare.

“When you go ride, you want to ride,” Webber said. “There are places in northern Maine you can only get to on a snowmobile. The backwoods are beautiful.”

Bob Casey, the trail master with the Windham Drifters Snowmobile Club, said he would go north every weekend if not for work obligations.

“People who can, go north,” Casey said. “The trails are wider and faster. My buddies all head up there. The local riding scene is second-choice.”

In the far northern reaches of Maine, the economic impact is evident in February and March, according Gary Marquis, the Caribou trail coordinator. Even in 2016, Marquis said there was not a vacant hotel room from Presque Isle north.

“We know in northern Maine we will get snow,” Marquis said. “We never have a lack of snow. It just depends what time of year it comes.”

Steve Dobson, who owns two motels near Presque Isle, said many out-of-state riders discovered northern Maine during the winter of 2016 and returned last year.

“We got people who had never been to Aroostook County,” Dobson said. “I saw people from Niagara Falls and people from western Massachusetts, and they came back last year. If you’ve got snow and you get them here – you’ll get them back.”

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

Twitter: FlemingPph

]]> 0 Pruett, a member of the Windham Drifters Snowmobile Club, helps mark trails early Saturday in preparation for the season. The club looks after about 45 miles of trails. All told, snowmobilers contribute $350 million annually to the state's economy.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 15:16:00 +0000
MECA’s new president sees arts education as key to navigating an ever-changing world Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Laura Freid has a resume peppered with Ivy League schools that led to a globe-trotting job with a world-famous musician, which she left to become the newest president of Maine College of Art.

“I wanted to do something in my career that could really help artists stay artists their whole life,” she said.

Freid became MECA president this past July, leaving a 12-year partnership with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and their collaboration, the Silk Road Project. He was the public face of the global cultural arts organization, while Freid served as CEO and executive director. Before that, she worked as chief communications officer at Harvard University and as an executive vice president at Brown University.

Coming to an art school feels like a natural landing spot at this moment in her life and career, and also at this moment in the world. Freid is an advocate for passion-based learning and believes that art-school students are best equipped to handle the challenges and opportunities of the world today and tomorrow, because art is present everywhere we look.

“Designers are the problem-solvers of the future,” Freid said in an interview in her Portland office. “The 21st century is the creative century, and an arts education is a great education to have. We are all walking around with art on our wrists, on our tablets and on our phones. We need people in the world who can present that art in a beautiful way.”

Freid lives in a condo in Portland’s East End and walks to work most days. She appreciates the vibrancy of Munjoy Hill and Portland as a whole. Her husband lives and works in Massachusetts, and they own a house in Newton.

She spent her first 100 days in Portland listening. She’s met with more than 800 people since she arrived in July, including folks directly associated with MECA and those on the periphery of the school.

She said yes to MECA because she wanted to further integrate her interests in arts and education. Freid studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Washington University, earned a master’s in business from the Boston University School of Management and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. “My intellectual interest is in aesthetics and the philosophy of aesthetics, so art is very important to me, and I think to the world,” she said. “Art helps us understand what’s going on in our life.”

Mostly, she loves being around students who are creative, active and engaged. The period in people’s lives between the ages of 18 and 24 are when so many transformational experiences occur, “and when you find out who you are and what you contribute to your world,” she said.

When Freid researched MECA after being asked to apply, one of the things she noted was the school’s Artists at Work program, which connects students to internships, jobs, commissions, professional development opportunities, community partners and residencies so they can work in their fields of training. At Harvard, Freid began a cultural entrepreneurship program that encouraged artists and business people to create businesses that serve society. She saw parallels between the program at Harvard and the program at MECA and was impressed.

As president, her job is to figure out what the school will look like in five, 10 and 20 years from now.

The challenges are mostly financial, and those are tied to the cost of doing business in Portland. MECA’s fall enrollment was 512, which continues a trend of enrollment increases. Of those students, about half live in downtown dorms owned or rented by MECA. The school has to increase its housing stock at a time when affordable housing is harder to find. “Supply and demand is decreasing our students’ ability to find housing at a reasonable cost,” Freid said. “We want students to focus on their learning and not have to worry too much about their housing.”

Toward that end, she has convened an informal task force to explore downtown options. The next step will be making a plan and raising money. The school’s annual budget is $14.3 million, and Freid said the school “needs to increase fundraising and corporate and foundation support.”

The opportunities are as endless as imagination. She wants MECA students to “go deep” in their studies so they can avail themselves to all possibilities.

When she talks about MECA to people in the community, she reminds them of the importance of creativity in America’s economy and culture. “It’s important to understand that everything we touch and see and feel has been designed and made by somebody,” she reminds people. “When we go online, everything we look at was designed by an artist.”

Supporting students through scholarships, she said, is one of the most important things a person can do. That’s especially true now, when America’s investment in the arts is less than solid. “We spend a lot of time applauding ourselves for our creativity, but we are not investing enough in the creative leaders of tomorrow. If we don’t watch it, we might turn out like some societies that have very accomplished engineers and mathematicians, but they are lacking creativity. And when you lack creativity, you aren’t innovating.”


]]> 0"I can think of nothing more important than investing in our artists of tomorrow," said Maine College of Art President Laura Freid, who is working on improving housing availability and scholarship opportunities for MECA students.Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:46:40 +0000
SnowTrac: snow totals for the Dec. 9 storm Sun, 10 Dec 2017 03:15:41 +0000 The map below illustrates reported snowfall accumulations from National Weather Service observers as of 10 p.m. Saturday night.

INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @c_milneil
]]> 0, 10 Dec 2017 09:50:02 +0000
Trump doubles down on border wall efforts Sun, 10 Dec 2017 02:35:17 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump still wants his wall.

Minutes after he signed a stopgap measure to give Congress two more weeks to negotiate a spending deal and avoid a government shutdown, the president renewed his call for lawmakers to fund his signature campaign promise — a large physical wall along the 2,000 miles of border between the United States and Mexico.

“We’re going to get the wall,” Trump said at the White House on Friday after Kirstjen Nielsen was sworn in as the new secretary of Homeland Security. “If we don’t get the wall, then I got a lot of very unhappy people, starting with me.”

Trump added that he wanted to overhaul the country’s legal immigration system to make it “merit-based” and to “get rid of chain migration,” which allows U.S. citizens to bring qualified family members from abroad.

His demands to reduce the flow of legal immigrants as well as build a border wall are likely roadblocks to an agreement to keep the government open beyond Dec. 22.

The wall, which could cost tens of billions of dollars, is not popular with either party in Congress.

Moreover, Democrats want the spending bill to include legal protections for about 700,000 people brought illegally to the country as children who will be at risk of being deported starting early next year.

Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September, and the deportation deferrals issued under the Obama-era program begin expiring March 6.

Republican lawmakers and Trump are demanding that any measure to help so-called “Dreamers” be paired with steep increases in funding for border security, money to build Trump’s wall, and new limits on who U.S. citizens can sponsor for permanent residency.

The White House believes such harsh measures would help prevent future waves of illegal border crossings.

]]> 0 Customs and Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint station in Falfurrias, Texas. President Trump says he wants to make legal immigration a "merit-based" system.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 22:03:39 +0000
Alabama Democrats fighting against math and history Sun, 10 Dec 2017 02:18:29 +0000 BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Renegade Republican Roy Moore may be plagued by scandal, but it will take more than that to convince the voters of 44th Place North to show up for Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday.

In a state where Democrats are used to losing, the malaise is easy to find in this African-American neighborhood in suburban Birmingham, even on the final weekend before Alabama’s high-profile Senate contest.

“A lot of people don’t vote because they think their vote don’t count,” Ebonique Jiles, 27, said after promising a Jones volunteer she would support the Democrat in Tuesday’s election. “I’ll vote regardless of whether he wins or loses.”

With history and math working against them in deep-red Alabama, Democrats are fighting to energize a winning coalition of African-Americans and moderate Republicans – a delicate balancing act on full display on Saturday as Jones and his network of volunteers canvassed the state. Even if Jones wins on Tuesday, many Democrats expect the GOP to re-claim the seat when the term expires at the end of 2020. Beneath Jones’ biracial and bipartisan balancing act is a complex numbers game that has vexed Alabama Democrats for decades.

The party’s core of black voters and white liberals – plus a smidgen of old-guard, more conservative “Southern Democrats” who’ve held on amid the region’s partisan shift – is worth no more than 40 percent in statewide elections. That’s been true in high-turnout elections, with former President Barack Obama twice landing between 38 and 39 percent, and the most recent governor’s race in 2014, when the Democratic nominee pulled just 36 percent.

African-Americans make up about 25 percent of eligible voters, though Democratic pollster Zac McCrary said Jones needs black voters to comprise 27 percent or more of those who show up at the polls on Tuesday. Jones then needs to win one in three white voters in the state, which would require capturing about 15 percent of Republicans, McCrary said.

On the ground in Alabama on Saturday, Jones dispatched hundreds of volunteers across the state to knock on doors to identify likely supporters in neighborhoods that featured high concentrations of African-Americans and Republicans who supported Moore’s GOP primary opponent, current Sen. Luther Strange.

]]> 0 voters choose between Republican Roy Moore, left, and Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:33:45 +0000
Some boycott as Trump pays tribute at civil rights museum Sun, 10 Dec 2017 02:16:53 +0000 JACKSON, Miss. — President Trump paid tribute Saturday to the leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement whose sacrifices helped make the United States a fairer and more just country, though protests surrounding his visit to Mississippi laid bare the stark divisions among Americans about his commitment to that legacy.

As Trump gazed at an exhibit on Freedom Riders at the new Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, demonstrators near the site held up signs that said “Make America Civil Again” and “Lock Him Up.” Some shouted “No Trump, no hate, no KKK in the USA.”

Trump spent about 30 minutes at the museums, gave a 10-minute speech to select guests inside and then flew back to his Florida estate, skipping the public schedule of the dedication ceremony held outside on a chilly day. He spent more time getting to Jackson than he did on the ground.

Trump’s remarks steered clear of addressing the anger that his participation had sparked leading up to the dedication.

In a deliberate voice and rarely diverting from his prepared words, the president sought to honor the famous and the anonymous for their efforts on behalf of freedom for all.

“The civil rights museum records the oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, the fight to bring down Jim Crow and end segregation, to gain the right to vote and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality. And it’s big stuff. That’s big stuff,” he said.

“Those are very big phrases, very big words. Here we memorialize the brave men and women who struggled to sacrifice and sacrifice so much so that others might live in freedom,” he said.

The national president of the NAACP and the mayor of Mississippi’s capital city said they kept their distance from Trump because of his “pompous disregard” for the values embodied by the civil rights movement.

Derrick Johnson, head of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, and Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said at a news conference that they looked forward to a “grander opening” of the museum that they can attend.

Johnson, a Mississippian, charged that Trump opposes labor rights, education, health care and voting rights for all Americans.

“We will never cede the stage to an individual who will fight against us,” Johnson said. “We will not allow the history of those who sacrificed to be tarnished for political expediency.”

Johnson and Lumumba spoke to about 100 supporters, including some who participated in the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, at Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center.

Once the first public school built for African-Americans in Jackson, it’s now a museum to black history and culture.

Lumumba called Trump to task for “his pompous disregard for all of those factors that will not enable us to stand with him today.”

The state’s attorney general, Jim Hood, criticized Republican Gov. Phil Bryant for inviting Trump. “It threw cold water in the face of people who fought the battles for civil rights,” Hood said.

Bryant, who introduced Trump, spoke of “the emotion that comes over you in waves as you see the past, the struggle, the conflict. I’m so very proud today that the president of the United States was here to see and witness it.”

Among the high-profile figures to stay away was U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a leader of the civil rights movement.

Lewis, among the scores of Democratic lawmakers who skipped Trump’s inauguration in January to protest his record on race, said Trump’s presence at the museum opening was an insult.

]]> 0 Trump listens to Museum Division Director Lucy Allen during a tour of the newly opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., on Saturday.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:16:53 +0000
Archaeologists enter 2 ancient tombs in Egypt Sun, 10 Dec 2017 00:16:09 +0000 LUXOR, Egypt — Egypt on Saturday announced the discovery of two small ancient tombs in the southern city Luxor dating back some 3,500 years and hoped it will help the country’s efforts to revive its ailing tourism sector.

The tombs, located on the west bank of the Nile River in a cemetery for noblemen and top officials, are the latest discovery in the city famed for its temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of ancient Egyptian history.

“It’s truly an exceptional day,” Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said. “The 18th dynasty private tombs were already known. But it’s the first time to enter inside the two tombs.”

Al-Anani said the discoveries are part of the ministry’s efforts to promote Egypt’s vital tourism industry, partially driven by antiquities sightseeing, that was hit hard by extremist attacks and political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

The ministry said one tomb has a courtyard lined with mud-brick and stone walls and contains a 6-yard burial shaft leading to four side chambers. The artifacts found inside were mostly fragments of wooden coffins. Wall inscriptions and paintings suggest it belongs in the era between the reigns of King Amenhotep II and King Thutmose IV, both pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.

The other tomb has five entrances leading to a rectangular hall and contains two burial shafts located in the northern and southern sides of the tomb.

Among the artifacts found inside are funerary cones, painted wooden funerary masks, clay vessels, a collection of some 450 statues and a mummy wrapped in linen who was likely a top official. A cartouche carved on the ceiling bears the name of King Thutmose I of the early 18th dynasty, the ministry said.

Afterward, al-Anani headed to a nearby site where the famous Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is located to open for the first time the temple’s main sanctuary known as the “Holy of Holies.”

Since the beginning of 2017, the Antiquities Ministry has made a string of discoveries in several provinces across Egypt – including the tomb of a royal goldsmith, in the same area and belonging to the same dynasty, whose work was dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun.

]]> 0 Egyptian guard stands next to a funeral mural inside a newly discovered tomb on Luxor's West Bank. One of the two tombs has five entrances that leads to a hall and contains funerary masks, clay vessels and a mummy.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19:25:11 +0000
Couple doubts priest contrite about 1977 cross-burning Sun, 10 Dec 2017 00:05:24 +0000 Father Aitcheson also covers an overdue civil payment, but his victims neither forget nor forgive.

It took 40 years, but a Catholic priest who used to be in the Ku Klux Klan finally apologized to the black couple he targeted in a cross burning.

William Aitcheson told Phillip and Barbara Butler how he was “blinded by hate and ignorance” when he targeted the then-newlywed couple who had just moved to the neighborhood. He rejected those beliefs before entering the priesthood but was too ashamed to face the Butlers, he wrote.

“I believe now that all people can live together in peace regardless of race,” he said in a letter, dated Sept. 8. “I also know that the symbol of the most enduring love the world has even known must never be used as a weapon of terror. Its use against you was a despicable act. I seriously regret the suffering it caused you.”

The Butlers and their attorney, Ted Williams, spoke in a news conference Friday about Aitcheson’s letter, and recent payment to the Butlers of $23,000 from an overdue civil suit judgment along with $9,600 in attorney fees. Aitcheson’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.

Although Aitcheson was no longer under any legal obligation to pay the Butlers, he felt a moral obligation and used his private funds and a personal loan to make the payment, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington wrote in a statement. The Butlers declined a meeting with Aitcheson, so he wrote “a genuine apology through a hand-written letter,” the diocese wrote.

“Fr. Aitcheson acknowledges that he should have reached out to the Butler family and paid restitution decades ago, but he hopes this resolution begins a process of healing and peace,” the diocese wrote.

In his letter, Aitcheson explained to the Butlers that it took him so long to apologize because he was ashamed of his actions.

“It’s no excuse. I understand that. But it is the truth. I didn’t know how to deal with it,” he wrote. “You deserved an apology, but I did not demonstrate the strength needed to face you.”

As a Catholic, Phillip Butler said he wants to be able to forgive Aitcheson now that he has confessed his sins, but said he is not ready.

“That’s what they preach, but then you have to give it from your heart and say, ‘OK, I’m going to do that,’” Butler said about forgiveness, motioning to his heart. “I can’t do it yet.”

The Butlers only recently heard from Aitcheson after he penned an essay about redemption, claiming that the violence at the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, made him think of his “despicable” actions with the Ku Klux Klan.

The Butlers doubt the sincerity of his confession, saying he wrote the essay only because a freelance reporter who introduced herself as a parishioner contacted the diocese about Aitcheson’s radical past.

“For you to say that you’re sorry? No, you’re not sorry,” said Barbara Butler, as if speaking directly to Aitcheson. “You’re sorry that you got caught.”

Most recently, Aitcheson was a parochial vicar, or assistant to the pastor, at St. Leo the Great church in Fairfax City, where he had been for four years before temporarily stepping down from his post.

“As this matter involving the Butler family and Fr. Aitcheson has only been resolved recently, plans for his future priestly ministry are still being discerned,” the diocese wrote in a statement Friday.

Forty years ago, Aitcheson was a University of Maryland student and a KKK member who was eventually deemed “too radical and violent” for the main KKK branch, which threw him out, according to FBI files.

He led a group called the “Klan Beret” and prepped to blow up a local NAACP branch and a power plant and communications center at Fort Meade, Maryland, an undercover agent testified. The group had burned five other crosses in Prince George’s County, including at two Jewish institutions. Aitcheson was sentenced in 1977 to 90 days in a federal medical prison with four years probation by a judge who told him, “I don’t believe you are a bad person.”

Aitcheson was targeted in a class-action lawsuit, filed in federal court, which was resolved in 1982 with $23,000 in damages awarded to the Butlers and $1,500 apiece to Beth Torah Congregation and B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation of College Park. It was unclear whether Aitcheson also paid the Jewish groups.

In October 1981 Aitcheson wrote a letter to the judge detailing how his life had changed, saying that he had held jobs as a florist driving a delivery truck, a shoe salesman and a garment factory worker, earned his teacher certificate and started teaching.

“I am truly sorry for the harm I did,” Aitcheson wrote to the judge. “I regret my association with that organization; my thinking has so totally changed in the last five years, it would be inconceivable for me to ever resume that part of my life.”

Eventually, Aitcheson decided to become a priest. He was ordained for what was then the diocese of Reno-Las Vegas in 1988 at age 33, and in brief comments in August, the Rev. Robert Chorey, spokesman for the Reno diocese, said church leaders “understood at least part of his background” when they hired Aitcheson. “I have no record of their thought process.”

The Butlers are still angry about the cross burning and said the letter and money mean nothing to them. Neither are sure what Aitcheson could do to earn their forgiveness.

]]> 0 and Phillip Butler, victims of the 1977 cross burning on their property by William Aitcheson, a former Ku Klux Klan member who became a Catholic priest in 1988, say they doubt the sincerity of his confession and aren't interested in meeting with him. Washington Post/Marvin JosephSat, 09 Dec 2017 19:13:22 +0000
Central Maine sees first notable snowfall of season Sat, 09 Dec 2017 23:44:04 +0000 The first significant statewide snowstorm of the season brought slick conditions and prompted a substantial number of weather-related traffic accidents Saturday in central Maine.

The storm, which was poised to dump 4 to 6 inches of snow on the region Saturday and into Sunday morning, hit the Augusta-Waterville area in the early afternoon.

John Cannon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, said the storm should last well beyond midnight but the snow would stop falling by daybreak, moving from southwest to northeast.

However, he said the storm might linger well into Sunday morning over the mountains in the Sugarloaf area.

The weather service also issued a winter weather advisory Saturday for the entire state, which means drivers should be prepared for winter driving conditions, such as travel difficulties and periods of low visibility. The Maine Turnpike Authority reduced the speed limit to 45 mph Saturday afternoon along the entire length of the tollway, from the New Hampshire state line to Augusta.

The snowy weather caused a substantial number of accidents Saturday and cars pulling off to the shoulder of the interstates and side roads, a dispatcher from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office said. In Waterville, there were also several reports of accidents and cars sliding off the roads, but no significant injuries, city police Sgt. Lincoln Ryder said Saturday. He said there was one report of an accident that resulted in damage to a mailbox.

Ryder said that when the snow began to fall, the conditions were slick; but once public works came out to plow the streets and treat the roads, the conditions continued to improve as evening began.

“Be cautious,” Ryder advised. “We always want people to drive defensively.

Cannon, the meteorologist, said the snow is likely to remain on the ground until the next weather threat arrives on Tuesday, because the temperature is expected to stay in the low 30s for the next few days and the angle of the sun is low at this time of year. Cannon said Tuesday’s storm has the potential to bring several more inches of snow.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

Twitter: EmilyHigg

]]> 0 couple walks on Saturday along Northern Avenue through the snow toward St. Augustine Catholic Chuch in Augusta. The first measurable snowstorm of the season began late in the afternoon.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:23:58 +0000
Nobel laureate: Disaster certain with nuclear bombs in existence Sat, 09 Dec 2017 23:19:21 +0000 OSLO, Norway — As long as atomic bombs exist, a disaster is inevitable, the head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said Saturday.

“We are facing a clear choice right now: The end of nuclear weapons or the end of us,” Beatrice Fihn told a news conference at the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

“An impulsive tantrum, a calculated military escalation, a terrorist or cyberattack or a complete accident – we will see the use of nuclear weapons unless they are eliminated,” she warned.

“These weapons do not make us safe, they are not a deterrent, they only spur other states to pursue their own nuclear weapons. And if you are not comfortable with Kim Jong-un having nuclear weapons, then you are not comfortable with nuclear weapons. If you’re not comfortable with Donald Trump having nuclear weapons, then you are not comfortable with nuclear weapons,” Fihn said.

ICAN, which brings together more than 450 organizations, was a driving force behind an international treaty on banning nuclear weapons that was passed this year. So far, 53 countries have signed up, but only three have ratified it – the treaty needs ratification by 50 to go into effect.

No nuclear power has signed the treaty. Three major nuclear powers – the United States, Britain and France – have said they will not send their ambassadors to Sunday’s Nobel prize-awarding ceremony in the Norwegian capital.

Satsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who is to accept the prize along with Fihn, said she was “not too surprised” at the diplomatic snub.

“This is not the first time they have behaved that way … they tried in many different ways to sabotage, to discredit, what we tried to do,” she said.

“Maybe this shows they are really annoyed at what success we have had so far.”

ICAN on Saturday installed 1,000 red paper cranes outside the Norwegian Parliament. The cranes were made by children in Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in 1945.

]]> 0 Fihn, executive director of the ICAN, arrives for a press conference at the Norwegian Nobel Committee, in Oslo, Norway, Saturday.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19:00:22 +0000
Waterville walk celebrates work of police, public officials Sat, 09 Dec 2017 22:41:42 +0000 WATERVILLE — Timothy Russell said he knows how important it is to show support for those who serve.

Russell, 71, who now is on the Sidney Selectboard, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and wasn’t exactly received warmly upon his return to the United States.

“I was not appreciated when I came home from Vietnam, at all,” he said.

So when Russell heard about an event in Waterville to recognize police, municipal officials and emergency workers, he knew he had to turn out.

“I think it’s important people decide to get together to peacefully support the police, and to show them that we do support them, because without them we’d have anarchy.”

Russell’s admiration for law enforcement and service members was a sentiment he had in common with the seven other people who showed up at noon Saturday at Thomas College for the Walking the Beat march. The event was meant to celebrate the work of the college, which offers courses in criminal justice, forensics, criminal law and political science; as well as police, veterans, firefighters, municipal employees, nurses, doctors, secretaries and others.

At Thomas, organizers Blake Winslow, a senior political science major at the school, and Julian Payne, a Waterville resident, held a banner that read, in purple, spray-painted letters, “WTVL PD DOIN IT RIGHT.”

For Payne, “doing it right” has a lot to do with how Waterville police treat the community’s most vulnerable residents.

“They’ve worked hard to solve the drug problem and reach out and decriminalize it so that people can get treatment,” said Payne, who was elected to the Waterville Board of Education in November and will join the board in January. “You can see them helping the homeless, and we haven’t had any incidents in our local police force that we’ve seen on a national level; so to us, we feel that they’re setting a good example to the whole nation.”

The event also was meant to commemorate Police Appreciation Day, which is Jan. 9. Organizers decided to hold it a month early to avoid treacherous winter weather.

The weather did play a role in the festivities Saturday, as the march did not go on as conceptualized by organizers. The group had planned to meet at the college and then proceed on foot to Head of Falls off Front Street, a 3-mile trek that would have taken about an hour. But because of the low temperature and impending snow, the group decided to drive from Thomas to Head of Falls and then walk to the police station on Colby Street.

Among the people who walked from Head of Falls to the police station were several elected officials, including Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville; City Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4; and Laura Parker, who serves on the Sidney Selectboard.

“A lot more people need to know about the good job the Waterville police do and the innovative things they do like Project Hope,” Madigan said, referring to Operation HOPE, which stands for Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort, a treatment-based approach the department is using to fight the ongoing drug epidemic. “I think too often in these divisive times people kind of try to make a division, and there’s not; we’re all a community here that really appreciates their work,” she continued.

When the group arrived at the police station, they were met by police Chief Joseph Massey and several of the department’s officers. Organizers Payne and Winslow both thanked Massey and the officers for the work they do in Waterville and surrounding communities, and they handed the banner they had made to Massey.

“It’s just wonderful to know that the community supports the Police Department. Like I’ve always said, we’re more successful when we have the community behind us, and we certainly enjoy that here in the city of Waterville,” Massey said of the show of support he saw Saturday. “I’ve been here for almost 32 years, and one of the best rewards you can get for doing what I call a very demanding and challenging job is public appreciation, and we see that every day.”

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

Twitter: EmilyHigg

]]> 0 Payne and Blake Winslow hold a banner Saturday on Front Street next to the entrance to Head of Falls showing support for the Waterville Police Department.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19:41:11 +0000
Deep freeze gives Deep South taste of winter Sat, 09 Dec 2017 22:34:10 +0000 ATLANTA — An unusually heavy December snowfall across much of the Deep South tapered off Saturday, icy road conditions were still a threat and thousands remained without electricity throughout the region.

Forecasters warned that moisture on the roadways could freeze overnight and cause black ice to form. The National Weather Service said that even after snow flurries ended by midday, areas including metro Atlanta would still be cold enough for transparent layers of thin ice to form on bridges and other elevated roadways.

The frigid temperatures behind a cold front combined with moisture off the Gulf of Mexico to bring unusual wintry weather to parts of the South.


Preliminary reports to the weather service showed up to 10 inches of snowfall in northwest Georgia, with 7 inches of accumulation in parts of metro Atlanta. Another 10 inches of snow was reported in Anniston, Alabama, while up to 7 inches were reported in Mississippi. Rare flurries were even reported in New Orleans.

“It’s very, very abnormal and rare that we would get totals like that this time of year,” said Sid King, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Atlanta. “It’s really not even winter yet. I would not be surprised if we broke a lot of records.”

But the snow wasn’t expected to outlast the weekend. King said warming temperatures and sunny skies should melt most of it in time for shivering Southerners to return to work and school Monday.

At the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which holds the world record for annual number of passengers, spokesman Reese McCranie said over 400 flights were cancelled Saturday. That’s after nearly 1,200 cancellations Friday.

Not everyone was anxious to flee. Members of a central Florida family found their way to Atlanta specifically to witness the white drifts.

“It’s beautiful,” said Tim Moss, while his two sons and wife threw snowballs at each other near a McDonald’s parking lot early Saturday. He said the family – including his mother – made a spontaneous decision late Friday to leave 80-degree weather in Florida and drive seven hours to see snow for the first time.

“A lot of people who live here are staying in,” said Moss. “They don’t want to get out in it. But we want to get out and run around in it.”


The snowstorms knocked out electricity to thousands across the South. More than 334,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity Saturday afternoon in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. About 235,000 of those still in the dark were in Georgia.

Southern Pine Electric Co-operative had more than 10,500 customers without power Saturday in south Mississippi. The co-op had more than twice that many outages at the storm’s peak, utility spokesman Brock Williamson said. He said getting everyone’s electricity restored could take days.

“This may be the first time we’ve ever dealt with a winter storm that’s created so many outages,” he said.

In Atlanta, a fallen power line was blamed for electrocuting a man Friday. Bystanders tried to warn the man before he walked into the dangling live wire, Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee said Saturday. He said it was unclear if the wire was downed because of the icy weather.

A freeze warning was in effect Saturday for parts of northern Florida, southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. The weather service said freezing temperatures can harm vulnerable plants and animals.

Snow had moved further east by Saturday, dumping up to 14 inches in parts of North Carolina before heading into the Mid-Atlantic. Virginia State Police reported hundreds of crashes blamed on icy weather.

]]> 0 heavy morning snow falls in Jackson, Miss., Friday, as an electronic sign posts a winter weather advisory on Interstate 55. Above, Laura Washington, shovels in Kennesaw, Ga.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 17:42:20 +0000
Public radio’s Tom Ashbrook suspended after allegations Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:50:28 +0000 Boston’s WBUR won’t go into details, and the syndicated show will run with a guest host Monday.

The Boston public radio station WBUR has placed its most-well known host, Tom Ashbrook, on leave after receiving allegations against him. The station did not go into detail as to what the allegations were about.

Ashbrook – host of “On Point,” a syndicated call-in show that airs on nearly 300 public radio stations – is the latest public radio figure to face allegations resulting in censure.

Ashbrook’s home station, WBUR, issued a statement Friday announcing Ashbrook’s suspension but did not release details about the allegations or a timeline for his absence. According to the statement, the station’s owner, Boston University, plans to hire an outside organization to investigate the accusations and will make further determinations based on the result of that investigation.

A spokesperson for the station, Kristen Holgerson, said the station could not comment on specifics until “the process is concluded.”

A story by WBUR reporter Martha Bebinger said the station’s staffers gathered on Friday for an off-the-record meeting, where they were told of Ashbrook’s suspension.

According to the story by Bebinger, who was not present at the meeting, station manager Charlie Kravetz told newsroom staffers that the station’s “primary concern is a positive work environment for everybody who works here and a respect for all those people who listen here in Boston and across the country.”

Ashbrook said in a statement to WBUR that he’s “stunned at the situation” and that he has “no information about what the station has received. There’s a process and I respect the process.”

According to WBUR, Ashbrook’s show will air Monday with a guest host.

]]> 0 ASHBROOKSat, 09 Dec 2017 17:45:19 +0000
More than 100 Maine schools look to launch regional service centers Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:30:53 +0000 AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Education said last week that it has received nearly two dozen proposals from 102 schools that want to launch new regional centers.

Maine’s shrinking, largely rural schools have been working to share resources with other schools for years. But Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration pushed lawmakers this year to create new incentives for such efforts.

The education department announced this month that it will be reviewing applications for nine to 12 new regional service centers.

The state would cover 100 percent of the costs of accounting, payroll and a student information system. State funding would also cover 55 percent of an executive director’s salary and benefits.

Lawmakers passed a two-year, roughly $7 billion budget that would gradually decrease state funding for school administration costs while aiming to increase funding for instruction.

Lawmakers decreased state funding for school system administration from $135 per pupil this school year to $92 per pupil in the 2018 school year and to $47 per pupil in 2019.

School districts that are part of regional service centers can receive an additional $46-per-pupil allocation for the regional service center next school year that increases to $94 in 2019.

Starting in 2020, Maine’s education commissioner would determine the per-pupil allocation.

In order to receive funding, a regional service center must provide certain categories of services, such as a regional special education director or regional transportation services for homeless youths.

The LePage administration stresses that the centers are voluntary, though schools that form or join the centers are eligible for additional funds.

The governor has long argued that the large, rural state has too many superintendents who are too costly and has fought to shift more costs to local school districts.

A statewide association representing superintendents has criticized cuts to administration funding and argued that LePage’s proposals face opposition from communities that want “visible and accessible” school superintendents.

Schools that join a regional center can continue to pay for a full-time or part-time superintendent, or they can choose to share a superintendent with other members of the center, according to the Department of Education.

There may be another option for schools looking to keep their superintendent: The department says the law doesn’t prohibit a school’s superintendent from serving as a regional center’s executive director.

]]> 0 Sat, 09 Dec 2017 16:30:53 +0000
Video of starving polar bear fuels fears of climate-linked extinction Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:20:52 +0000 The world’s tragedies often have images that end up defining them: A 5-year old screaming in Iraq after her parents were killed by U.S. soldiers. A starving child being stalked by a vulture during a ruthless famine in Sudan.

A video released this week of an extremely emaciated polar bear has served a similar purpose: as a rallying cry and stand-in for a largely unmitigated environmental disaster.

The video was shot by Paul Nicklen, a nature photographer and contributor to the National Geographic magazine for the last 17 years. He is also a biologist by training and the co-founder of Sea Legacy, a nonprofit that uses storytelling and images to advocate for the environment.

Nicklen’s video, which he shot on a trip for Sea Legacy, depicts an emaciated polar bear, its coat patchy, seemingly near death on an island in a Canadian territory inside the Arctic Circle. It searches for food in a rusted garbage can and chews what Nicklen said was an old snowmobile seat.

And it struck a nerve: It was viewed more than 3.5 million times in posts on Nicklen’s and National Geographic’s Instagram feeds, according to metrics on the photo sharing site, before picking up news coverage from around the world.

In his caption with the video, Nicklen wrote that his team was “pushing through their tears” while documenting the bear.

“It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy,” he wrote. “This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death.”

The photo was shot on Somerset Island in the upper reaches of Canada. Nicklen and his team saw the bear and shot the video from about 400 feet away, he said. Nicklen, 49, who grew up in the region on nearby Baffin Island, said that he had never seen a bear in such poor condition before.

“We stood there crying – filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” he told National Geographic.

He said that the intent behind the footage, which is set over a mournful soundtrack, was not purely journalistic. The trip he was on was part of a push to drive home the issue of climate change with Sea Legacy. Though he said that he had no definitive proof that the bear’s condition was connected to the global phenomenon, he said he wanted to show people what a starving bear looked like and let them draw their own conclusions.

“We are a visual species,” Nicklen said in a phone interview. “He should have been a dominant bear. Why he was dying, I don’t know.”

A shot of another emaciated polar bear taken by a photographer in 2015 raised similar questions.

Polar bears face an existential threat from climate change due to the loss of habitat from melting sea ice, scientists believe. The populations of some 25,000 polar bears in 19 locations worldwide are forecast to decline by as much as a third in the coming decades. As their hunting and breeding grounds shrink, polar bears face an increased threat of starvation.

More than any other animal, polar bears have become the poster animal for climate change, The Washington Post’s Cleve Wootson reported. Former Vice President Al Gore used a cartoon of an exhausted, endlessly swimming polar bear to illustrate the impact humans were having on the sea ice where the bears once hunted. And studies and government agencies continue to warn that climate change could make polar bears extinct by 2050.

A paper, published in July, said that the higher global temperatures go the more likely polar bears are to interact with humans – and possibly attack and eat them.

Some expressed skepticism that anything could be gleaned about the environment from one image. A commenter on the National Geographic’s Facebook page wondered about the bear’s age, when the footage was taken and what an autopsy would show.

Dr. Donald Moore, the director of Oregon Zoo, senior science adviser to Smithsonian National Zoo and expert on polar bears, said he couldn’t tell much more about the bear’s age or condition from the video except its extreme skinniness.

But he said that starvation was one of the results of the polar bear’s loss of icy habitats.

“These polar bears should be riding ice somewhere,” he said. “We have seen more and more very thin polar bears in the Arctic in recent years as climate change increases in intensity and opens up more water.”

He says that the population of about 25,000 polar bears in the wild has declined about 20 percent over the last decade or so. Bears need an immense amount of food, he said, about an average of a seal a week.

Nicklen said that while most people were supportive of the photo, a small percentage had been offended that he had not taken more action: fed the bear or tried to save it. Or taken it out of its apparent misery.

“It’s not like we travel around with 200-300 of pounds of seal meat when we’re walking around in the Arctic,” Nicklen said. “We knew it was going to be gut wrenching and intense and horrible.”

]]> 0 emaciated polar bear caught on video by nature photographer Paul Nicklen near the Arctic Circle brought tears to the eyes of those who spotted it searching for food.Mon, 11 Dec 2017 05:46:22 +0000
Most evacuees allowed to return home in California Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:01:16 +0000 FALLBROOK, Calif. – Firefighters in Southern California were on high alert for dangerous fire potential even before the first blazes broke out.

But once flames met ferocious winds, fire crews were mostly powerless to stop infernos that destroyed more than 1,000 buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced hundreds of thousands of people to run from six out-of-control fires that have burned over 270 square miles since Monday.

“The crews were trying to stay out ahead of this as quickly as they could,” said Capt. Kendal Bortisser of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention. “As we know, when a tornado hits the Midwest, there’s no stopping it. When a hurricane hits the East Coast, there’s no stopping it. When Santa Ana winds come in, there’s no stopping them.”

Firefighters gained ground on all the fires and most evacuees were allowed to return home. President Trump issued an emergency declaration allowing counties affected by the wildfires to receive federal assistance.

Yet danger persisted. Vegetation is bone dry, there’s been hardly any rainfall and winds were expected to gust up to 50 mph over the weekend in the Los Angeles and Ventura areas, the National Weather Service said.

Fires have taken people by surprise over a large swath of Southern California since the biggest fire broke out Monday evening in Ventura County, where the only death attributed to the fires, so far, involved a 70-year-old woman who was found dead in a wrecked car on a designated evacuation route in the small city of Santa Paula.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday toured Ventura County neighborhoods ravaged by a wildfire that destroyed more than 500 homes and buildings and burned more than 230 square miles as it spread to beach communities and into rugged mountains where a preserve is established for endangered condors.

At a news conference, Brown said deadly and destructive wildfires in winter are “the new normal.” He said that drought and climate change mean California faces a “new reality” where lives and property are continually threatened by fire, at a cost of billions of dollars.

Three people were burned trying to escape a fast-moving fire that started Thursday 50 miles north of San Diego that overran a race horse training facility and a mobile home retirement community.

John Knapp did not initially believe a sheriff deputy’s order to leave when he first spotted the fire outside his home in the Rancho Monserate Country Club.

“I thought he was full of bologna, but once I saw the flames and the smoke I thought that maybe he’s right,” Knapp said.

After leaving, he watched from a nearby highway for five hours as the community went up in smoke.

More than a third of the community’s 213 mobile homes burned as fire zigzagged along a hillside, skipping some streets and razing others. On one street, all 24 mobile homes were gone, with only hulls of cars and twisted metal remaining.

Knapp was sure he had seen his house burn on the television news, so he was expecting the worst when he snuck past a police barricade to witness the damage and was surprised to find it still standing.

Others who managed to get out with little more than the clothes on their backs were not as fortunate.

Dick Marsala was too overwhelmed to speak as he searched through the smoldering remnants of his house, trying to find his wallet. A framed photo of him playing golf was still hanging on a blackened wall.

“I’ll be darned,” he said, his eyes tearing up as he put on sunglasses.

Tom Metier, whose home was spared, zipped through the mobile home park in a golf cart, giving bad news to some of the neighbors who called him.

“It’s really horrible to see some of these little streets look like a moonscape,” he told a friend whose home was reduced to black rubble.

The flames that tore through Fallbrook, the self-proclaimed “Avocado Capital of the World,” also hit hard in the nearby town of Bonsall, where an estimated 30 to 40 elite thoroughbreds perished when the flames swept into barns at the San Luis Rey Training Facility.

Pandemonium broke out as hundreds of horses were set free to prevent them from burning in their stables. They nearly stampeded trainer Kim Marrs as she rescued a horse named Spirit World.

Marrs said it was devastating to see the remains of once regal animals.

“It’s pretty apocalyptic,” she said. “When you touch them it’s just ash.”

Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers in Bonsall, Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Brian Skoloff in Ojai, and Brian Melley, Michael Balsamo, Robert Jablon and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

]]> 0 crews search for hot spots among destroyed homes in the Rancho Monserate Country Club community Friday in Fallbrook, Calif. The wind-swept blazes have forced tens of thousands of evacuations and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in Southern California.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 16:01:16 +0000
Central Maine Sunday Dec. 9 police log Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:52:38 +0000 IN AUGUSTA, Friday at 7:17 a.m., a disturbance was reported on North Belfast Avenue.

7:38 a.m., there was a traffic accident on Route 3 and Riverside Drive.

9:42 a.m., a disturbance was reported on Western Avenue.

9:51 a.m., criminal mischief was reported on Gage Street.

10:08 a.m., a disturbance was reported on Union Street.

10:22 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Leighton Road.

11:30 a.m., theft was reported on Cony Street.

11:39 a.m., there was a traffic accident on Mount Vernon Avenue.

11:43 a.m., there was a traffic accident on Crossing Way.

11:53 a.m., there was a traffic accident on Stone Street.

12:25 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Stone Street.

1:15 p.m., disorderly conduct was reported on Patterson Street.

1:38 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Western Avenue.

2:33 p.m., theft was reported on Water Street.

2:50 p.m., theft of a motor vehicle was reported on Stephen King Drive.

3:30 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Senator Way.

3:50 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Cony Street.

4:29 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Northern Avenue.

5 p.m., there was a traffic accident on Civic Center Drive and Interstate 95.

6:14 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Civic Center Drive.

11:22 p.m., harassment was reported on Eastern Avenue.

Saturday at 12:48 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Riverside Drive.

IN ANSON, Saturday at 1:45 a.m., police investigated a report of a domestic disturbance on West Mills Road.

IN BINGHAM, Saturday at 7:27 a.m., vandalism was reported on West Street.

IN CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Friday at 2:48 p.m., a report of harassment was taken on Begin’s Way.

Saturday at 12:39 a.m., a report of harassment was taken on Access Road.

IN FAIRFIELD, Friday at 9:47 p.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity on Island Avenue.

IN FARMINGTON, Friday at 12:24 a.m., a domestic disturbance was reported on Perham Street.

8:04 a.m., a theft was reported on Davis Road.

9:25 a.m., trespassing was reported on Fairbanks Road.

2:11 p.m., a report of harassment was taken on Franklin Avenue.

3:59 p.m., a theft was reported on High Street.

Saturday at 5:01 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Granite Heights.

IN JAY, Friday at 10:06 p.m., a noise complaint was taken on Bridge Street.

IN NORRIDGEWOCK, Friday at 2:34 p.m., a theft was reported on Main Street.

IN OAKLAND, Friday at 10:04, noncriminal fingerprints were reported on Fairfield Street.

1:31 p.m., police investigated a report of an accident in which a person was injured on Old Waterville Road.

Saturday at 2:50 a.m., police investigated a report of a domestic dispute on High Street.

IN PALMYRA, Friday at 3:12 p.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity on Main Street.

Saturday at 9:56 a.m., a report of harassment was taken on Hicks Pond Road.

IN PITTSFIELD, Friday at 1:28 p.m., a theft was reported on Waverly Street.

1:46 p.m., a report of harassment was taken on Main Street.

IN SKOWHEGAN, Friday at 3:43 p.m., agencies responded a vehicle fire on Back Road.

4:57 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on North Avenue.

6:35 p.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity on Prospect Street.

8:32 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Dr. Mann Road.

8:43 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Dr. Mann Road.

Saturday at 2:07 a.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity on Madison Avenue.

IN STARKS, Friday at 4:54 p.m., a domestic disturbance was reported on Corinna Road.

IN STRONG, Friday at 5:44 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Montfort Drive.

IN WATERVILLE, Friday at 9:16 a.m., a report of harassment was taken at the Budget Host Inn on Kennedy Memorial Drive.

10:08 a.m., a theft was reported on Spring Place.

10:58 a.m., a report of harassment was taken on Elm Street.

11:46 a.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity on Colby Street.

12:37 p.m., suspicious activity was reported at the Walmart parking lot on Waterville Commons Drive.

1:34 p.m., police investigated a report of shoplifting at Mardens Surplus & Salvage on Kennedy Memorial Drive.

2:54 p.m., a drug offense was reported at Colby College on Mayflower Hill Drive.

4:08 p.m., a report of harassment was taken on Colby Street.

7:10 p.m., police investigated a report of an assault at the Lonbard Apartments on Elm Street.

8:00 p.m., police responded to an accident in which a person was injured on Main Street.

11:47 p.m., police made three arrests while responding to a report of a theft at Thayer Garden Apartments on Quarry Road.

Saturday at 12:03 a.m., police investigated a reported of a fight on Silver Street.

12:24 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Union Street.

1 a.m., police investigated a report of a disturbance at the Waterville House of Pizza on Main Street.

1:10 a.m., a report of a harassment was taken on Pleasant Street.

2:11 a.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity at Elm Towers Apartments on Elm Street.

2:13 a.m., police investigated a report of a domestic dispute on Industrial Road.

IN WILTON, Friday ar 5:47 p.m., a theft was reported on Village View Street.

8:19 p.m., a noise complaint was taken on Main Street.

IN WINSLOW, Friday at 9:24 a.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity at Shades N’ Waves on Clinton Ave.

10:58 a.m., police received a report that a protection order had been violated.

2:21 p.m., a theft was reported on Boston Avenue.

3:21 p.m., a theft was reported on Halifax Street.

9:34 p.m., police investigated a report of suspicious activity on Maillet Street.

9:53 p.m., police investigated a report of criminal mischief at It’s a Good Pizza on Clinton Ave.

10:56 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Jim Street.

11:20 p.m., police investigated a report of threatening on Old Ames Road.


IN AUGUSTA, Friday at 1:17 p.m., Scott W. Allard, 54, of Augusta, was arrested on a warrant after suspicious activity was reported on Western Avenue.

Saturday at 1:25 a.m., Paul A. Wheelock, 24, of South Portland, was arrested on a warrant on Sewall Street and was charged with unlawful possession of a scheduled drug and violating condition of release.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Friday, Casey Geiger, 30, of Rangeley, was arrested and charged with violating conditions of release.

IN SOMERSET COUNTY, Friday at 9:01 a.m., Craig A. Johnson, 56, of Madison, was arrested and charged with operating under the influence and violating conditions of release.

1:46 p.m., John D. Pierce, 52, of Bowdoin, was arrested and charged with unlwaful furnishing of morphine, a schedule W drug.

4:11 p.m., John A. Currier, 64, of Embden, was arrested on a warrant.

4:30 p.m., Mitchel B. MacArthur, 28, of Fairfield, was arrested and charged with domestic violence assault.

9:33 p.m., Joseph M. Hibbard, 39, of Embden, was arrested and charged with violating conditions of release.

9:38 p.m., Maurice A. Wilbur, 24, of Peru, was arrested and charged with operating while license was suspended or revoked.

9:45 p.m., Tyler J. Mclean, 20, of Madison, was arrested and charged with violating conditions of release, theft by unauthorized use of property, operating under the influence and operating vehicle without a license.

Saturday at 1:12 a.m., Mindy S. Lacasse, 30, of Skowhegan, was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of scheduled drug, unlawful possession of scheduled 2 drugs, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and operating under the influence.

2:03 a.m., Raymond S. Daskoski, 36, of Madison, arrested and charged with operating under the influence.


IN WATERVILLE, Friday at 8:02 p.m., Logen Williams, 20, of Winslow, was summoned on a charge of possession of a usable amount of marijuana.

8:02 p.m., Kristina A. Genica, 20, of Waterville, was summoned on a charge of illegal transportation of drugs by a minor.

]]> 0 Sat, 09 Dec 2017 18:04:50 +0000
Robotics teams compete at event at Augusta Civic Center Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:30:46 +0000 More than 60 teams, each made up of 9- to 14-year-old children, from across the state competed Saturday in the 18th annual Maine FIRST LEGO League State Championship at the Augusta Civic Center.

According to the program, the league is designed to encourage the natural curiosity and creativity of children, in the belief that those qualities are key to understanding complex problems, imagining new possibilities, and developing innovative solutions. The league actively engages 9- to 14-year-old children to experience the world using science and technology as their guides. Using a real-world context and hands-on experimentation, FLL empowers teams of children to teach themselves how and why things work as they discover and develop diverse interests and skills that help bring their future into focus.

Awards were distributed as follows:


1st place: Noble Nezinscot Nerds

2nd place: Coyote Pups — Alpha


1st place: H2O07 (from Lawrence Junior High School)

2nd place: Yellow Submarines


1st place: Hydro Llamas

2nd place: Gardiner Lego Robots 2 (from Gardiner Regional Middle School)


BE EV3’s


1st place: System Overload

2nd place: Drought Scouts


1st place: Blue Jesters

2nd place: Salty Savages


1st place: Hydro Hawks

2nd place: Excelerators (from Winslow)


1st place: The Leaky Sinks

2nd place: Robo Cougars (from Mt. Blue Middle School)


1st place: Aye Sea Legos

2nd place: Who Are We?


1st place: The Snail People

2nd place: Noteworthy Nezinscot Nerds


1st place: Coyote Pups — Gamma

2nd place: Waterville Junior High Team


1st place: Water Those?

2nd place: Pipe Patrol

3rd place: SmartFun Engineers (from Farmington)

]]> 0 Middle School team member Eric Fyfe takes his hands off the team's robot as it heads out onto the course for another mission Saturday during the Maine FIRST LEGO League State Championship at the Augusta Civic Center.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19:58:13 +0000
Lisbon aquaponics operation gets funding to expand Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:08:11 +0000 In early 2016, aquaponics farmer Trevor Kenkel vowed that he would expand his already-flourishing operation.

You can’t say Kenkel isn’t true to his word.

Kenkel’s business, Springworks Farm, has secured $1.6 million to create a second greenhouse, larger and more efficiently designed than the first.

Kenkel says that with the funding, the three-year-old company’s 6,000-square-foot greenhouse will be complemented by a new 8,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to open by summer of 2018.

The expansion will earn Springworks the distinction of being the largest aquaponics farm in New England.

In his marriage of aquaculture and hydroponics, wastewater from 1,000 tilapia swimming in several large tanks is channeled through greenhouse beds growing crops such as lettuce, tatsoi, bok choy, cilantro and mizuna — products that are sold to local restaurants and other clients.

“Lettuce is a $3 billion a year industry, with over 98 percent of the product grown in, and shipped from, California and Arizona,” Kenkel said in announcing the expansion. “The time is ripe to disrupt an agricultural system that no longer works for those who understand the critical need to shift to a more sustainable model for growing food.”

Kenkel, now 22, is a Montana native studying biology and economics at Bowdoin College.

According to a news release, his new facility represents the latest model in a series of experiments with aquaponics that Kenkel has been exploring since childhood. He was first drawn to the field when he noticed the degradation of the pristine creek where he fly-fished as a child in Montana.

After learning that pollution from a nearby farm was responsible, Kenkel started investigating sustainable agriculture. That began a series of projects funded by summer jobs during Kenkel’s high school years. Those experiments culminated in a 2,000-gallon greenhouse system that supplied enough greens to feed his family and supply a local restaurant.

Kenkel’s academic investigation of the aquaponic principles he put into practice allowed him to create a miniaturized version of the models he’s been perfecting for most of his life. The Springworks ‘microfarm’ is an aquarium-fitted aquaponic system that turns a 10-gallon tank into everything needed to grow fresh herbs from water exchanged with the aquarium’s fish.



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