Rex Tillerson says ‘the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end’

Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.


Expect clouds and a light southwesterly breeze. Our highs will be in the 70s to 80s today. Check your local forecast here.

National and international headlines

Rex Tillerson says ‘the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end’

The buzz early this morning is a scoop from the Associated Press that reported this morning that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it is clear “to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”

This follows remarks made by the White House yesterday that it is keeping additional military strikes against the Assad regime on the table after last week’s cruise missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat air base.

President Donald Trump ordered that airstrike after the Syrian government allegedly launched a chemical weapon attack from that airbase against civilians in a rebel-held area of the Idlib province. Scores of civilians, including many children, died during that attack, sparking international outrage.

Russia opens new front in US rivalry with Taliban support

Russia and the U.S. are increasingly sparring over Afghanistan, adding to rapidly souring ties between the Kremlin and President Donald Trump’s administration, Bloomberg News reports.

Afghan security forces take position during a gun battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Laghman province, Afghanistan March 1, 2017.
Parwiz | REUTERS

Defense Secretary James Mattis has voiced alarm at Russia’s actions in Afghanistan, where it’s been cultivating links with the Taliban amid a campaign waged by the terrorist group against Afghan and NATO forces.

His comments come as local Afghan officials and a former Taliban commander say there is evidence Russia is supplying arms to the insurgents.

Gorsuch sworn in as Supreme Court justice

Colorado appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch took his oaths to be the Supreme Court’s 113th justice Monday, first in a private ceremony at the court and later at a Rose Garden ceremony with the man who nominated him, President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reports.

On a sunny spring day at the White House Rose Garden, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom the 49-year-old Gorsuch once served as a clerk, led him through a second oath that justices take to impartially interpret the laws “and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”

“I cannot tell you how honored I am to have here today my mentor, Justice Kennedy, to administer the judicial oath, a beautiful oath, as he did for me 11 years ago when I became a circuit judge,” Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch was confirmed by a 54-45 vote Friday, the closest margin since Justice Clarence Thomas was approved more than 25 years ago, The Post reports.

Alabama governor resigns as scandal leads to criminal charges

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned on Monday after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors related to campaign finance violations and linked to his relationship with a former adviser, ending a year-long scandal that has enveloped the state’s government, Reuters reports.

“I have decided it is time for me to step down as Alabama governor,” Bentley said at a press conference in the state capital of Montgomery, adding that his service “was a calling that God placed on my life.”

His replacement, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, was sworn in as governor about an hour after his resignation.

Teacher, 8-year-old student killed in San Bernardino special-ed classroom shooting, officials say

Three people, including a teacher and a 8-year-old boy, died Monday in an apparent murder-suicide at an elementary school in San Bernardino, California, police said, dealing another shock to a community still reeling from a terrorist attack two years ago that claimed the lives of 14 people, The Washington Post reports.

San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan said during a news conference Monday that Karen Elaine Smith, 53, a teacher, was killed inside a classroom at North Park Elementary School by her estranged husband, Cedric Anderson, 53. Anderson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The chief said Jonathan Martinez, 8, was airlifted to a local hospital, where he died. Burguan said a 9-year-old child, whose name has not been released, remains in stable condition at a local hospital.

FCC drops its proposal to allow cellphone use on planes

Federal regulators are withdrawing a proposal that would have allowed air travelers to use their cellphones at high altitude, The Washington Post.

Under the proposal, passengers would still have been required to keep their phones turned off or on airplane mode during takeoff and landing, but they could have switched on their connections at cruising altitude.

The decision Monday to reverse the proposal came from new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who called the plan “ill-conceived.”

Local headlines

A disabled child soldier from Maine finally gets his due

In case you missed it, the BDN’s Troy R. Bennett tells the story of William “Billy” Brown who served as a child soldier in the U.S. Navy during the Quasi-War with France in 1798.

Maimed in battle in a now-forgotten war, Brown was then cast aside by his country. The African-American man never got medals or the pension he was due. Instead, his reward was a life of pain and poverty. When he died, he ended up a forgotten man in an unmarked grave in Portland’s Eastern Cemetery.

Until now.

Former midcoast mansion owner sues auctioneer who sold it for mere $1.4 million

The former owner of a $10 million island mansion is suing a high-end, Florida-based auctioneer after his home sold for a meager $1.375 million last June, the BDN’s Nick McCrea reports.

This house at 180 Abrams Mountain Road, called “The Froggery,” sold at auction over the weekend for an undisclosed sum. Earlier this year, it was listed for $10.9 million, making it the most expensive house on the market in Maine.
Photo by DeCaro Luxury Auctions

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Waldo County Superior Court, contends that the auction, organized by Daniel DeCaro and DeCaro Luxury Auctions in Naples, Florida, was a “disaster” and “fiasco.”

State animal welfare department defends dog pardoned by LePage

Dakota, the husky facing a death sentence who was pardoned last month by Gov. Paul LePage, may have a new advocate at Tuesday’s hearing in Waterville District Court, the BDN’s Judy Harrison reports.

Dakota was pardoned recently by Gov. Paul LePage. A District Court judge had ordered the husky euthanized after it attacked other dogs.
Photo by Humane Society of the Waterville Area

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s animal welfare program on Monday came to the defense of the dog, saying she is now less dangerous, and the order calling for her euthanization should be set aside.