Trump’s anger over Russia probe prompted him to fire FBI director

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National and international headlines

Trump’s anger over Russia probe prompted him to fire FBI director

WASHINGTON – Every time FBI Director James Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Donald Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia.

Trump had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgment, and was infuriated by what he viewed as the director’s lack of action in recent weeks on leaks from within the federal government. By last weekend, he had made up his mind: Comey had to go.

At his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump groused over Comey’s latest congressional testimony, which he thought was “strange,” and grew impatient with what he viewed as his sanctimony, according to White House officials. Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.

Putin would rather play hockey than talk about the Comey firing

Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines Wednesday when he commented on President Donald Trump’s surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey the night before. A CBS News reporter asked him how the firing will affect U.S.-Russian relations. He told her that the question was “funny” before answering, “We have nothing to do with it.”


What made Putin’s response go viral, however, was where he answered the question — and what he was wearing.

“You see, I am going to play hockey,” Putin said. “I have hockey plans.”

Indeed he did. After dodging a question of international importance, Putin made his way through the tunnel of the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia, to take part in an exhibition match to promote a league he recently created, the Night Hockey League. It didn’t start well for him, however; he fell shortly after face off.

A brawl on a Southwest Airlines jet ended with a dogpile on a flight attendant

Yet another video of sprawling violence in the tiny space between two aisle seats has gone forth into the world.

A melee on a plane at Burbank Bob Hope Airport in California on Sunday culminated in a dogpile on top of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. According to NBC 4 Los Angeles, the flight attendant had been helping deplane passengers from Dallas when a man complained that the woman behind him was “messing with his chair.”

The woman’s companion stepped into the aisle to help her get off the plane, according to a police report obtained by NBC 4, and got sucker-punched for his trouble.

Vermont legislature approves marijuana legalization bill

BOSTON — Vermont lawmakers on Wednesday approved a measure to legalize recreational use of marijuana, which if not vetoed by the governor would make the state the ninth to legalize the drug and the first to do so by legislation rather than ballot initiative.

The U.S. state’s House of Representatives voted 79-66 for the measure, which was attached to a bill increasing penalties for the possession and sale of the opioid drug fentanyl. The measure, which would take effect in July 2018 and allow adults 21 and over to buy and use the drug, was passed by the state Senate last week in a 20-9 vote.

Atomic town revels in its past as tunnel collapse raises contamination concerns

RICHLAND, Washington – This town at the edge of the Hanford nuclear site long ago made its peace with the facility’s history of producing plutonium for nuclear bombs.

Bomber’s Drive-Thru sells milkshakes and burgers. The Richland High School mascot is the Bomber, and a mushroom cloud is painted across the gymnasium floor. There’s Atomic Bowl, Atomic Foods, Atomic Auto Body, Atomic Scuba.

The Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery’s menu highlights a “Reactor Core pizza” with “nuclear butter” and sells house-made beers like “Half-Life Hefeweizen” and “Oppenheimer Oatmeal Stout.”

Hours after the collapse of a 20-foot portion of a Hanford tunnel full of highly contaminated equipment, Adrian Martens was sitting at the bar having a pint after his Tuesday shift. He said people here aren’t afraid of Hanford – or adopting the atomic iconography as kitsch. “It’s a fun retro thing,” he said. He thinks the news panicking about the tunnel collapse “might be overblown.”

Local headlines

 LePage won’t oppose Angus King for U.S. Senate in 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s political adviser announced Wednesday that the governor will not challenge independent U.S. Sen. Angus King in the 2018 election.

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Brent Littlefield said in a written statement to reporters that LePage has accomplished improvements in the economy and the state’s fiscal status but that “there is more to do.”

“Therefore the governor will remain focused on the job at hand and not enter the United States Senate race in 2018,” reads the statement.

Elephant tranquilizer kills first Maine drug user

Maine saw its first lethal overdose from a powerful elephant tranquilizer called carfentanil, an opioid that the DEA says is killing drug users all over the country.

“The Medical Examiner has confirmed a death due to carfentanil that occurred in April in York County,” Tim Feeley, spokesman for the state’s Attorney General’s Office, said Wednesday. “This was the first confirmed death attributed to that substance.”

He declined to release the person’s gender or age, due to privacy reasons.

Trump lieutenant takes war on opiates to Maine, faces skepticism, protests

AUGUSTA, Maine — Over a din from protesters, President Donald Trump’s top health care lieutenant told Maine reporters on Wednesday that the administration envisions a “seamless” transition for people getting treatment for opiate addiction, but experts are skeptical.

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U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to the State House on Wednesday alongside Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the Republican president, for an opiate addiction roundtable hosted by Gov. Paul LePage.

Price called opiates a “scourge across this nation.” That is so in Maine, which had more than one drug overdose death per day in 2017 — a record high that was driven by increases in deaths attributed to fentanyl and heroin.

“The president has made one of his top priorities to make certain that we turn the tide on this,” Price said before the roundtable. “At this point, we have been losing the battle.”

Former critics sign letter asking to preserve Maine’s monument

MILLINOCKET, Maine — With President Donald Trump targeting northern Maine’s national monument, Katahdin-area leaders who fiercely opposed its creation now say they want to keep it.

Nineteen officials representing towns near the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument wrote Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke asking him to do “everything in your power to ensure that this monument is a success,” as Zinke’s agency reviews whether President Barack Obama followed the law in creating it.

At least two officials who signed — Millinocket Town Council member Jesse Dumais and Rep. Steve Stanley, D-Medway — previously opposed the monument. Stanley in 2016 sponsored a bill that would have barred landowners from donating land for monuments.

Deportee’s wife: ‘I’m not going to let this government tell us who we can love’

PORTLAND, Maine — Over the next 24 hours, Sandra Scribner Merlim expects her husband to be shackled along with scores of other prisoners, bussed to an airport from a federal immigration detention facility in Louisiana, and from there flown back to a country that he hasn’t seen in more than 20 years.

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Otto Morales-Caballeros’ imminent deportation to Guatemala appears to be one of the first instances of a Maine family being forcibly divided by the Trump administration’s more aggressive approach to enforcing immigration law. It leaves Merlim without a source of income and with a hole in her home and heart where her husband used to be, she said.

“My husband, my provider, my protector, the love of my life is gone,” Merlim said tearfully on Wednesday. “Gone from our lives like a common criminal.”

Collins votes with Democrats to help defeat bill revoking Obama-era methane rules

The Senate failed to advance a measure to repeal a rule loathed by oil and natural gas companies, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suffered a rare legislative defeat by just one vote.

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The 49-51 procedural vote means a resolution to nullify the regulation from the Bureau of Land Management falls short after passing the House. Democrats united against the measure, and were joined by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and John McCain. Graham and Collins had long said they opposed the repeal, but McCain was a surprise no vote.

“We actually thought we had just enough,” Sen. John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican who supported the repeal, said. “But as it turns out we lost three and didn’t get any help from the Democrats.”

Angus King wants probe of Comey firing, questions Sessions’ role

U.S. Sen. Angus King said his quip about hiring recently ousted FBI Director James Comey to head the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was meant as a joke — mostly.

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“When I first mentioned it, it was half in jest,” King said in a Wednesday interview. “But I have talked to other committee members and everyone has the same reaction: At first they laugh, and then they say, ‘Well, that would make some sense.’”

Whether or not Comey is hired, the independent senator has serious concerns about what motivated President Donald Trump to suddenly fire him from the FBI on Tuesday.


Knife or pen in hand, MDI artist carves out a career from pieces of paper

Jennifer Judd-McGee’s designs have been seen all over the country, in fact — she’s licensed them to the likes of Target, Hallmark, Land of Nod, Timberland and the New York City Transit Authority, as well as, more locally, Friends of Acadia and Portland-based Taproot Magazine.

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Many of her designs are inspired by the landscapes of Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island. Her late summer visits to the Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor result in flowers and birds appearing in her designs. A papercut illustration of an idyllic view of sailboats plying the waters of Somes Sound is one of her most popular designs, and is available as a print, as a card, and even as a needlepointed pillow.

Mainers, here are the basics on pre-existing medical conditions

Much of the fevered debate about House Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is coalescing around its implications for people with pre-existing conditions.

The term is insurance company jargon but it’s quickly becoming part of the popular lexicon. So what exactly does it mean, and how many people in Maine have one?

A pre-existing condition is basically a health issue that an individual already has at the time their health insurance coverage starts.

Tiny houses could solve midcoast Maine’s shelter shortage

ROCKPORT, Maine — In a region with a growing homeless population, no emergency homeless shelter and just one family shelter, constructing tiny homes might be the most reasonable solution.

“We’re looking at and trying to brainstorm and creatively think about solutions to the problems, and I think there’s a lot of interest in building tiny houses,” Becca Gildred, director of development for the Knox County Homeless Coalition, said this week.

In the midcoast, which includes Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties, there are anywhere between 150 and 225 homeless people at any given time, Stephanie Primm, executive director of the Mid-Coast Hospitality House, said.

Midlife Mainers should know about these changes in Social Security

An estimated 221,000 Mainers 65 and older collect monthly Social Security retirement benefits. The number is expected to rise steadily over the next 15 years as members of the baby boom generation reach retirement age and start collecting their benefits. The average benefit is about $1,160 per month, and for one in three Maine retirees it is the only reliable source of income.

Established in 1935 as an element of the Depression-era New Deal legislation enacted by President Franklin Roosevelt, Social Security pumps about $4.6 billion per year into the Maine economy. The program enjoys broad consumer popularity and bipartisan political support, according to Lori Parham, executive director of the Maine chapter of the senior advocacy group AARP.


UMaine Extension tractor safety course graduates 11 students

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension with cooperation from Ingraham Equipment in Knox is please to announce that 11 students recently completed a 5-week tractor safety course.

Using the curriculum developed by the Hazardous Occupations Safety Training in Agriculture (HOSTA), students successfully passed both a driving and written exam documenting their proficiency in safe tractor operation. This is the 27th year that UMaine Cooperative Extension has partnered with Ingraham Equipment to offer the training.

Book Giveaway Bonanza

Come to the Book Bonanza at the Pittsfield Public Library Wednesday May 17 – Friday, May 19 from 10:00 – 6:00 and Saturday, May 20 from 10:00 – 1:00. Ex-library books are looking for a new home. You may adopt a bagful of books and share them with friends. There is no adoption fee, but donations for the Friends of the Library will be gratefully accepted.

Hampden Garden Club to hold Perennial Plant and Pie Sale
Hampden Garden Club will hold its yearly Perennial Plant and Pie Sale 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, May 20, at Harmony Hall, 24 Kennebec Road.
The sale features hundreds of plants grown and potted by club members, including some exceptional heirloom daylilies, as well as homemade pies.
All proceeds go to the maintenance of historic Harmony Hall. For information, call Anne, 862-3467.