TSA defends its thorough pat-down of a Texas boy

Good morning, Maine. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

National and international headlines

TSA defends pat-down of Texas boy; countless others creeped out

The Transportation Security Administration is defending an officer’s overly thorough pat-down of a boy at a Texas airport that outraged his mother and others who viewed her Facebook posting on the incident, The Washington Post’s Fredrick Kunkle reports.

“We have been through hell this morning,” the boy’s mother, Jennifer Williamson wrote on Facebook. “He set off NO alarms. He physically did not alarm at all during screening, he passed through the detector just fine. He is still several hours later saying ‘I don’t know what I did. What did I do?’”

The TSA has defended the pat-down, saying it was just following orders.

“TSA allows for a pat-down of a teenage passenger, and in this case, all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger’s laptop,” spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in an email to The Post. “The video shows a male TSA officer explaining the procedure to the passenger, who fully cooperates. Afterward, the TSA officer was instructed by his supervisor, who was observing, to complete the final step of the screening process.

“In total, the pat-down took approximately two minutes, and was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to mitigate the concerns of the mother. The passengers were at the checkpoint for approximately 45 minutes, which included the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the mother and to screen three carry-on items that required further inspection.”

Probe into Russian meddling in 2016 election put on hold

The House Intelligence Committee’s probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is effectively on hold after Chairman Devin Nunes said the panel would not interview more witnesses until two spy chiefs return to Capitol Hill for a still-unscheduled private briefing, The Washington Post reports.

Nunes said Tuesday that “until [FBI Director James] Comey comes forward, it’s hard for us to move forward with interviews and depositions”

The effective freeze in the committee’s Russia investigation comes as Democrats are calling for Nunes, who was part of Trump’s transition team, to recuse himself from the probe. Their demand was inspired by Nunes’ announcement that he went to the White House last week to meet a secret source who provided him with information suggesting identities of either President Donald Trump or his transition team surrogates may have been improperly revealed after being picked up in surveillance of foreign targets.

The next day, Nunes briefed the news media, then the president and then the news media again before taking that information to his colleagues on the intelligence committee, enraging Democrats, who have accused him of coordinating with the White House to draw attention away from the investigation.

A spokesman for Nunes told The Post the “hot spots” meetings were never scheduled, and will resume next week.

Scottish parliament backs bid for new independence referendum

The Scottish parliament on Tuesday backed a bid to hold a new independence referendum in 2018 or 2019, but the British government immediately rejected the proposal, Reuters reports.

With British Prime Minister Theresa May set to trigger the two-year negotiation process for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union (the Brexit), the move for a new Scottish independence referendum could further complicate the withdrawal.

The Brexit has strained ties between the U.K.’s four constituent parts because England and Wales voted to leave the EU while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.

“The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit, possibly a very hard Brexit, or becoming an independent country able to chart our own course,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

The clock starts ticking on Brexit

And Britain finally took a decisive — and likely irreversible — step toward leaving the European Union this morning with the simple handoff of a letter in Brussels, The Washington Post reports.

“This is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back,” Prime Minister Theresa May announced to a momentarily hushed House of Commons.

The move instantly plunged Britain and the EU into two years of what will almost certainly be messy and acrimonious negotiations over the terms of divorce, The Post reports.

Local headlines

Sen. Collins endorses Gorsuch, urges Democrats not to filibuster

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins took to the Senate floor Tuesday to urge Democrats to abandon their move to block the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, calling him “unquestionably qualified.”

Collins warned her colleagues that “playing politics with judicial nominees is profoundly damaging to the Senate’s reputation and stature. It politicizes our judicial nomination process and threatens the independence of our courts, which are supposed to be above partisan politics.”

Confirmation hearings for Gorsuch ended last Thursday on a tense note after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York vowed to block a vote on his confirmation, according to The Washington Post.

Under Senate rules, 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, and Republicans control only 52 seats in the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not ruled out using the “nuclear option” to require only a simple majority to confirm a Supreme Court justice, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union” in February “that is up to our Democratic friends.”

You can watch a clip of her speech below.

LePage seeks to lock tougher welfare rules into law

Gov. Paul LePage unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would enshrine a smattering of welfare changes enacted and proposed by his administration in Maine law, a move that would make it hard for a future administration to undo, the BDN’s Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd report.

The proposal changes include:

— Placing photographs on electronic benefits cards

— Banning or suspending parents not cooperating with child support services from receiving food assistance

— Disqualifying lottery and gambling winners of $5,000 or more from receiving food assistance

— Requiring education programs paid for with TANF money to be for jobs with average or better outlooks

— Banning repeat felony drug offenders from receiving food assistance

— Disqualifying all adults in a household from receiving TANF if an individual is convicted of welfare-related theft or fraud

“These reforms have restored confidence in Maine’s welfare system for the taxpayers who fund them,” LePage said during a news conference at the State House. “An able-bodied, 30-year-old man without kids should not be able to collect food stamps.”

Your weather update for Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The National Weather Service forecasts that today’s high temperatures will be a little below normal.

Greater Bangor can expect a high today around 40 degrees, with the high in Portland at 42 degrees. Up in Caribou, the high will be about 33 degrees.

The extended forecast calls for another 4 or more inches of snow by Saturday, according to the weather service office in Gray.