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National and international headlines
When he’s getting brain surgery, Taylor Hartsfield isn’t a very good singer.
As he mumbled the words to the 1980s Journey hit “Don’t Stop Believing,” the nurses and surgery staff laughed and gently ribbed him.
“You would not win ‘American Idol,’ dude,” said his surgeon, Dr. Ricardo Komotar.
In mid-April, Hartsfield, 30, underwent a craniotomy to remove a fist-sized brain tumor — while he was awake. The tumor was located near the part of the brain that controls movement and language, so surgeons had to keep him singing, talking, counting and wiggling his arms and legs throughout the hours-long procedure at the University of Miami Hospital to make sure they weren’t damaging his brain.
With a little bit of local anesthesia and a great soundtrack, he didn’t remember much of the surgery, which he compared to the trippy Star Gate scene from the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
“It was actually kind of fun,” he said.
A 25-year-old government contractor has been charged with mishandling classified information, after authorities say she gave a top-secret National Security Agency document to a news organization.
Reality Leigh Winner was accused of gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information — the first criminal charge filed in a leak investigation during the Trump administration.
Winner was arrested Saturday and the case was revealed Monday, shortly after the website the Intercept posted a redacted version of a U.S. intelligence document describing Russian government efforts to use hacking techniques against employees of a company that provides technical support to states’ voting agencies.
While President Donald Trump has vowed to formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, sparking international outrage, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of U.S. involvement forever. A future president could have us back in the agreement in as little as 30 days, legal experts say.
Under the rules of the Paris agreement, parties are allowed to exit and re-enter as they choose, though withdrawing is a much lengthier legal process than returning. And there are no provisions stipulating how much time has passed after withdrawal before a nation can begin the process of rejoining the agreement.
“A subsequent president would thus be able to submit a document stating the United States’ intention to become a party to the Agreement as soon as she or he wanted to,” Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, said in an email to The Washington Post — though he added that such an action is certainly outside the norm.
“Countries don’t typically withdraw from complex international agreements that they led the way in negotiating,” he said.
As a sheriff’s department spokesman in rural Louisiana, Clay Higgins’ rare candor precipitated his downfall but not before it catapulted him to online fame and more recently a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Like another Republican politician who rode a populist wave to Washington, D.C., this year — also with a penchant for making controversial statements off the cuff — the newly elected congressman finds himself under fire for making controversial statements about Muslims.
“Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter,” the Louisiana Republican posted on Facebook on Sunday. “Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”
President Donald Trump outlined a plan on Monday to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system to modernize it and lower flying costs, but his proposal drew immediate criticism from Democrats who said it would hand control of a key asset to special interests and big airlines.
Trump’s proposal to spin off air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration was part of a weeklong White House focus on infrastructure. The administration is looking to shift the spotlight back onto Trump’s agenda and away from a growing probe into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia.
“We’re proposing reduced wait times, increased route efficiency and far fewer delays,” Trump said. “Our plan will get you where you need to go quickly, more reliably, more affordably, and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time.”
Middle East countries scrambled Tuesday to mediate the deep rift between Qatar and several other Arab nations that is threatening to splinter the U.S.-backed regional alliance.
Qatar’s neighbors, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were joined by Egypt on Monday cutting ties with Qatar and denouncing it for supporting terrorism in the region.
The eruption of the long simmering dispute into an open rift shocked the region and has threatened the deeply intertwined regional trade links and air routes.
Former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew announced a 2018 run for governor Tuesday, becoming the first well-known Republican to enter the race to replace the term-limited Gov. Paul LePage.
A former Democrat and lobbyist, Mayhew’s career changed sharply in 2011 when she took the administration post that she left in late May, becoming the face of the Republican governor’s aggressive welfare agenda and the administrator most identified with him.
“I made that decision because I wanted to think about where the state needed to go in the next several years and I wanted to be part of that,” Mayhew said Tuesday morning on WVOM, a Bangor radio station. “As I left the department, and as I have thought about all we have accomplished, I know we have worked too hard to see what we have done undone. So today I announce my candidacy to be the next governor of the state of Maine.”
Whether Maine should expand its Medicaid program to cover tens of thousands more people has long been a hotly debated issue — one that may be decided at the ballot box in November.
But until now, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has remained above the fray, focused on trying to come up with a national health care measure that could appeal to the American mainstream.
Over the weekend, though, Maine’s senior senator told The New York Times that she thinks her state should embrace a Medicaid expansion modeled on the one that Indiana adopted while Vice President Mike Pence served as its governor.
“I recognize that it’s not my call,” Collins said Monday. But, she said, the idea “is worthy of consideration in Maine.”
Protected by Maine’s high court, a key group of Democrats looks open to eventually joining Republicans in repealing the state’s pioneering ranked-choice voting law before the 2018 election.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a unanimous opinion in May finding the law unconstitutional after it passed with 52 percent support from voters in 2016, saying it violates a provision allowing elections to be won by a plurality — and not necessarily a majority — of votes.
The opinion is non-binding, but it threw the law into question and led to dueling legislative proposals to deal with the problem.
A former Maine nurse who was quarantined in New Jersey upon her return to the U.S. from Africa, where she was treating patients diagnosed with the Ebola virus during a deadly outbreak in 2014, is close to settling a lawsuit against the state’s governor, according to a letter filed by a defense attorney.
Kaci Hickox sued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and several state public health officials last October, claiming she was held illegally and unconstitutionally against her will as part of a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning from certain West African countries who treated patients with Ebola.
The complaint also said Christie made false statements about Hickox’s health and implied she had symptoms of Ebola. Hickox has said Christie’s decision to quarantine her was based on fear, not science, and was politically motivated.
Democrats in the House of Representatives supported bids to make social services easier to acquire for veterans, homeless people and elderly Mainers, but the bills are unlikely to be enacted with most Republicans and Gov. Paul LePage leaning hard against program expansions.
Living and events
With both medical and recreational marijuana use now legal in Maine, today’s growers are combining green thumbs with advanced chemistry to produce varieties to treat everything from anxiety to pain.
But things have changed a bit since the days when marijuana was an illicit drug sold on the black market — including the potency of today’s marijuana.
“I came home, took a hit and nothing,” Davis said. “I took another big hit, nothing so I took a third hit and then it really set in.”
That was followed, Davis said, by a period of cold sweats and a mid-day three-hour nap.
“It was very potent,” he laughed. “But now I understand that, my partner and I enjoy smoking a bit every night.”
As waves of eager shoppers surged into the United Farmers Market of Maine building during its grand opening on Saturday, May 27, they were greeted by a sight that seemed somewhat unprecedented for the small coastal city.
Farmers, artisans, chefs and craftspeople presided over 65 stalls, featuring a wide range of vegetables, prepared food and other goods. There were six-packs of tender seedlings, piles of spring produce such as rhubarb and ramps, mouthwatering samples of Laotian and other ethnic cuisines, artisanal cheeses, organic microgreens, gifts, delicious baked goods and much, much more.
Between the crowds — about 2,000 people turned out for the market’s first day — and the sheer variety, more than one shopper was overheard comparing the Belfast market to those in larger cities.
“We could be in Brooklyn,” marveled one visitor, whose son was making a beeline for Stone Fox Farm Creamery’s ice cream stand.
The 2017 Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, scheduled for June 24, has several open slots remaining for bakers. This year, a couple of local bakers who have been with the festival since its inception were not able to make it due to prior commitments, leaving space for new talent to register.
Anyone interested in a booth at the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival should visit mainewhoopiepiefestival.com/bakers for information as soon as possible.
Last year, Dover-Foxcroft saw nearly 10,000 visitors come through the gates. For those who register as vendors or bakers, the day promises success.
Festival organizers are always on the lookout for volunteers, and this year is no different. Help is needed at the festival gates, to sell merchandise and to offer support to our vendors.
Every Tuesday in June from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the Abbe Museum at Sieur de Monts is hosting an archaeologist-led program where you can learn about Wabanaki material culture and the archaeological record in Maine.
This is a hands-on activity where you can touch artifacts and replicas while learning about Wabanaki cultural adaptations over the past 12,000 years.
This is a drop-in event so there’s no registration required!
The Northeast Wind Resource Center, in partnership with Clean Energy Group, E2Tech, and the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative, is hosting a forum 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 9 to discuss onshore and offshore wind power on a national, regional, and state level.
The No. 1 pollutant in Maine’s lakes is soil eroding from shorelines, roads, yards, and construction sites.
Join us for a day of service at Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery and help restore the shore and protect the waters of Alamoosook Lake. Volunteers will gather 9 a.m. to noon June 10 at the hatchery to plant native shrubs, improve beach access, and place interpretive signs along the shoreline.
The struggles of children and families in Uganda will be the topic for a talk at 7 p.m. June 12 at the Wilson Museum’s Hutchins Education Center in Castine.
John Shiundu, director of the Kidron Valley Children’s Home and Boarding School in Jinja, Uganda, will speak about adoption and the fate of unadoptable children in African orphanages, the Ugandan dowry system and its challenges, the plight of prison inmates, and the work he and his wife are doing to empower women and families with small home businesses — including chicken farming and hair care training. His organization also runs a clinic for malaria, childbirth, and emergency care.
Joining Shiundu will be two young Ugandan-born children who have recently been adopted into a family from the local area.
The Old Town Public Library, in partnership with the Bangor Public Health and Community Services, will be hosting a seminar entitled “Be a Life Saver” from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. June 21.
Heath Myers, an Overdose Prevention Coordinator with Bangor Public Health and Community Services will discuss overdose symptoms and risk factors, how to react to an overdose, medication safety, naloxone, and treatment and recovery.
Free take-home materials will be provided.
The annual S.W. Collins 5K Road & Fun race will be held June 25.
Registration is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at S.W. Collins Co. Caribou Yard. The 5K starts at 10:00 a.m., walkers start at 9:45 a.m., and kids Fun Run starts at 9:00 a.m.
Registration is $13 for adults, and the fee for the kids fun run is by donation. All proceeds will go to the Caribou Athletics Department.
Bill Cobb, director of the Maine chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, will give a presentation about several historic fire towers Down East, including the much beloved Grand Lake Stream tower that sits atop Indian Hill. The tower was built in 1934, and it is currently the oldest standing, enclosed wooden tower in Maine, and potentially New England. Following the presentation, we will take a group walk up to the GLS Tower to examine the site.
The talk will be 5 to 7:30 p.m. June 30 at the Grand Lake Stream School Building, 15 Water St., in Grand Lake Stream.
Performing for audiences around the world and in their own backyard in Maine, the 195th Army Band’s Concert Band is carrying on a proud tradition of military bands past and present by presenting free patriotic public performances.
The band will perform 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 6 at Riverfront Park, North Main Street, in Old Town.
The future of the cruise ship business in the state’s busiest cruise ship port will come to a crossroads next week when local voters consider two competing proposals on the town meeting ballot.
Until recently, “passive housing” — residences built to achieve ultra-low energy use — has been kind of a boutique effort, with eco-minded homeowners making upfront investments to radically reduce their carbon footprint. But now, Maine is on the leading edge of a surge in its development, on a large scale.
The local utility Kennebunk Power and Light has signed a 20-year deal that’s designed to support construction of one of the state’s largest solar arrays in operation.
The local utility district announced in a statement dated last week that it signed the deal with DG Maine Solar LLC, a subsidiary of the Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources.
The deal calls for DG Maine Solar to build a 2.9-megawatt solar farm that the utility expects will fulfill about 4 percent of its annual power demand, or about 3.9 million kilowatt-hours.
The array will be located on land next to its West Kennebunk substation, and the utility expects it will begin commercial operation in fall 2018.
Gov. Paul LePage introduced a number of odd bills this session, but one in particular recently caused us to scratch our head. The lawmakers on the Criminal Justice Committee smartly killed LD 1606 before it saw too much daylight, but it’s unfortunate they had to spend any time on the matter at all.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kimberley Rosen at the governor’s request, sought to stop one office within the Maine Department of Corrections from giving the Legislature — and, therefore, the public — information each year on programs across the state that teach convicted domestic violence offenders how to recognize and stop their abusive behavior.
A critical first step toward building Maine’s next generation economy is passing effective solar energy policy during this legislative session. Solar power expansion goes hand in hand with job growth, energy independence, lower energy costs and reduced carbon emissions.
When Fidel Castro wanted to poke a stick in the eye of the United States, he released prisoners from Cuban jails and allowed them to join a mass exodus of immigrants coming to America.
When Paul LePage wanted to poke a stick in the eye of the Maine Legislature, he freed thieves and burglars from a prison in Washington County and advertised to the world that they’d soon be filling seasonal jobs in our tourism industry.
Despots can be pretty clever sometimes.