Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.
The highs will be in the low 80s, with plenty of sunshine. Check your local forecast here.
National and international headlines
A small grey cat, Rufus, sits on a bar stool in a kitchen. “Rufus, jump,” a man says in a stern voice. Rufus looks at the stool next to his, a few feet away, and cowers. The owner sighs, walks over to the cat and instructs again. “Rufus, jump,” he says, and slaps the house cat hard, in the head. The cat doesn’t jump; he slaps the animal again. Finally, the cat does the trick. “Once more for the camera!” the owner demands, before the cat scurries away, terrified.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were intending to anonymously release this disturbing video on YouTube this week, to draw attention to animal cruelty. But there’s a problem: The video was faked. The cat is CGI. And a PR company working on PETA’s behalf asked a media organization to help them make the video go viral – without revealing that Rufus wasn’t real.
Fired FBI Director James Comey said President Donald Trump told him at the White House “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” in their private White House dinner conversation in January, according to written remarks from Comey offering a vivid preview of his testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In seven remarkable pages of prepared testimony, Comey describes a president obsessed with loyalty and publicly clearing his name amid an FBI investigation of his associates, and the FBI director’s growing unease with the nature of the demands being made of him in their private conversations.
Since firing Comey last month, the president has denied reports that he sought a pledge of loyalty from the FBI director amid a Justice Department probe into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian operatives. Comey’s written remarks do support another Trump claim — that the FBI director repeatedly assured the president that he was not personally under investigation.
“It is my belief that you are inappropriately refusing to answer these questions today,” U.S. Sen. Angus King said angrily. When he asked National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers why he wasn’t answering the questions, Rogers responded that he felt it was “inappropriate.”
“What you feel isn’t relevant, Admiral. What you feel isn’t the answer,” King said. “Why are you not answering the questions? Is it an invocation of executive privilege? If there is, let’s know about it. If there isn’t, answer the questions.
Rogers replied, “I stand by the comments I’ve made. I’m not interested in repeating myself, sir. I don’t mean that in a contentious way.”
“Well I do mean it in a contentious way,” King said.
North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned President Donald Trump for pulling the United States out of the Paris agreement on climate change, dubbing it a “shortsighted and silly decision.”
In a statement published Tuesday on Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency and attributed to a foreign ministry spokesman who wasn’t named, the isolated country warned that “global warming is one of the gravest challenges humankind is facing today” and praised the Paris accord for its attempt to stop it.
Noting that the Trump administration had announced June 1 that the U.S. would leave the landmark agreement, the unnamed official said that this was because of the president’s “America First” policies and an ignorance “of the fact that the protection of the global environment is in their own interests.”
“This is the height of egotism and moral vacuum seeking only their own well-being at the cost of the entire planet,” the statement said.
Justin Trudeau’s government plans to ramp up defense spending by more than C$10 billion ($7.4 billion) annually within a few years as the nation braces for a more isolationist U.S.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan released a defense policy review Wednesday, outlining a 20-year military procurement strategy that reiterates plans to replace its existing fighter jets and renew its fleet of warships.
Defense spending will increase to 1.4 percent of gross domestic product by the fiscal year that ends March 2025, Sajjan said. That’s up from 1.2 percent currently but still short of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization goal of 2 percent.
The death toll from the London Bridge terrorist attacks rose to eight Wednesday after police found the body of a missing French national in the River Thames.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said he had been informed of the new death toll. British police have not publicly identified the eighth victim, but they said the next of kin of missing French citizen Xavier Thomas has been informed about the body found.
The announcement came amid more raids and arrests following the Saturday night rampage — even as officials faced questions about how intelligence services apparently lost track of at least two suspects before the attack.
If you felt a little bit shaky Wednesday morning in midcoast Maine, you’re not alone.
People in and around the Monroe area took to social media to say they felt an earthquake. They were correct. A quake registered on a seismograph at Colby College in Waterville around 6:30 a.m.
The Weston Observatory in Massachusetts reported a 2.1-magnitude quake centered in Monroe, according to the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency.
Gov. Paul LePage is preparing to grant more prisoners early releases, according to Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick.
The governor’s staff are now reviewing the list of Maine’s female prisoners for non-violent offenders who could be let out early and intends to look at the county jail population when that is done, Fitzpatrick said Tuesday on WVOM, a Bangor radio station.
Fitzpatrick said that granting early releases to people in the county jails could help ease overcrowding in that system and that LePage has opposed commuting the sentences of any violent criminals or people convicted of selling drugs.
The large number of commutations are a first for Maine and are a “pretty progressive initiative” from the Republican governor, Fitzpatrick said.
A 20-year-old Fryeburg officer who had been on the job 3 months has died after suffering a severe head injury in a boating crash.
The Fryegurg Police Department said Nathan Desjardins died Tuesday at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.
“In the course of a police officer’s responsibilities, they expose themselves to very real risks and dangers every day,” Chief Joshua Potvin said in a statement. “Members of the Fryeburg Police Department are deeply saddened by the tragic death of our colleague. We offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family, fellow colleagues and friends of Nathan.”
To fill the school’s new Stephen E. King Chair in Literature, University of Maine officials have courted a Shakespeare scholar away from Boston College.
Caroline Bicks will leave her job at BC, where she’s been an English professor since 2002, to take on the new UMaine post in September. Bicks grew up in New York City, but spent summers growing up with her family in Castine.
“I remember reading every Stephen King book that they had at the Castine Public Library,” Bicks said in a UMaine news release. “His writing taught me early on that an artfully composed story can make a powerful and lasting impression. I still can’t sleep with the closet door open thanks to ‘The Boogeyman.’”
Living and events
When you think of the works of Andrew Wyeth, what comes to mind? His starkly beautiful paintings of the fields and farmhouses, coasts and rivers of Maine? His portraits of men, women, children and animals? Or, perhaps, “Christina’s World,” the haunting, Maine-set painting that’s undoubtedly his most famous work.
It’s unlikely that you think of Wyeth’s 1981 surreal self-portrait, “Dr. Syn,” — you may not have even seen it at all. In all of Wyeth’s more than 70-year career, there’s hardly another painting like it — in essence, a skeleton, dressed in an early 19th century naval jacket, looking out the window of what appears to be captain’s quarters on a ship.
This summer, you can see “Dr. Syn” in person, along with real-life objects depicted in the painting, at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. “Dr. Syn” is on display through Sept. 10 at the museum, as part of its larger “Andrew Wyeth at 100” series of exhibits, celebrating what would be the painter’s 100th birthday (Wyeth died in 2009 at the age of 91).
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 Maine Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill rolling back changes for tipped workers made by voters in 2016, signaling that reinstatement of the so-called “tip credit” is on track for passage in the Legislature.
It has been clear for months that some Democrats would bow to pressure from Republicans, restaurants and their workers to reinstate a lower minimum base wage for servers set to be phased out under the referendum, which will raise the regular hourly minimum to $12 by 2020.
The bill from Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, would again allow restaurants to pay servers a base wage of half Maine’s current hourly minimum wage of $9 as long tips get them to the minimum threshold.
A bill to regulate large-scale mining in Maine will go into law over the objections of Gov. Paul LePage following the Legislature’s rejection of his veto.
The House of Representatives settled the matter Wednesday afternoon in a convincing 122-21 vote in favor of the bill and against LePage’s veto. Earlier in the day, the Senate voted unanimously to override the veto.
This development effectively ends what amounts to years of debate over metallic mineral mining in Maine and the state’s struggle to implement rules that adhere to laws enacted by the Legislature.
In the first four months of this year, Avesta Housing received more than 400 requests for affordable senior housing. It was able to fulfill just 38 of them.
Lawmakers have an opportunity — for a second time — to ease this problem. In doing so, they would also be following the clear directions they were given by Maine people who approved a $15 million bond to build more affordable senior housing in 2015. Gov. Paul LePage has refused to issue these voter-approved bonds.
The governor has forced lawmakers to face the difficult and unusual decision of changing state law in order to go around him. With a growing waiting list of seniors seeking safe, affordable housing in Maine, they must vote for a new system to issue bonds so they can overcome the governor’s senseless recalcitrance.
Student enrollment is projected to plummet, as it has over the last couple decades. For ten thousand fewer students than six years ago, we are spending over $100 million more per year in state funding for education. This is driven by a 20 percent increase in special education costs, 17 percent increase in student and staff support, and 14 percent increase in administration spending.
This means funding 55 percent becomes more and more expensive every year. Even if the state is able to meet that target next year, we are creating a greater structural gap for future years when spending will outpace anticipated revenues.
President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord has been received in many circles as an unmitigated disaster. But we should look past the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth. If one actually reviews the consequences of withdrawal, it deserves more of a yawn.