Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.
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National and international headlines
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking congressional leaders to undo federal medical marijuana protections that have been in place since 2014, according to a May letter that became public Monday.
The protections, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent certain states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
In his letter, first obtained by Tom Angell of Massroots.com and verified independently by The Washington Post, Sessions argued that the amendment would “inhibit [the Justice Department’s] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.” He continues:
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
Read the full letter here
A close personal friend of Donald Trump on Monday raised the politically explosive possibility that the president could take action to fire Robert Mueller, the recently appointed special counsel tasked with looking into Russian meddling in last year’s election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.
“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel,” Christopher Ruddy said during an appearance on PBS’ “NewsHour.” “I think he’s weighing that option.”
Ruddy, who is chief executive of Newsmax Media and a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, confirmed his view in a text message to The Washington Post, but he did not elaborate. Ruddy told PBS that he thinks it would be “a very significant mistake” for Trump to seek Mueller’s termination.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ appearance Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee will be a high-stakes test for a Trump official who has become a central figure in the scandal engulfing the White House over Russia and the firing of James Comey as FBI director but has so far kept a low profile.
Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, will face tough questions from his former colleagues on a number of fronts that he has never had to publicly address in detail.
Democrats plan to ask about his contacts during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, which the attorney general failed to disclose fully during his confirmation hearing.
They also want him to explain his role in the firing of Comey, despite the attorney general’s recusal in March from the Russia investigation after revelations of his meetings with Kislyak.
With the trial’s end, a public storm that began in the fall of 2014 over Cosby’s sexual history is on the brink of a legal resolution. In jurors’ hands now is the fate of one of the 20th century’s most beloved personalities — and one of the 21st century’s most polarizing ones. A few weeks from his 80th birthday, Cosby could be preparing for a decade in jail if he’s found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand.
Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte will perform community service and anger management classes but serve no jail time for body-slamming a reporter on the eve of his election last month.
Gianforte pleaded guilty to charges that he assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs at the politician’s campaign headquarters on May 24 — an incident that was witnessed by other journalists and captured on audiotape.
Gallatin County Justice of the Peace Rick West sentenced Gianforte to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management classes Monday, the Associated Press reported. The congressman-elect, who won Montana’s lone U.S. House seat 24 hours after the assault, must also pay $385 in fines and court costs, according to the AP.
Jupiter formed in a geologic blink. Its rocky core coalesced less than a million years after the beginning of our solar system, scientists reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Within another 2 million or 3 million years, that core grew to 50 times the mass of Earth.
Scientists have previously built computer models of the birth of Jupiter. But this study “is the first time that we can say something about Jupiter based on measurements done in the lab,” study co-author Thomas Kruijer, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said.
To probe the planet’s creation, experts sampled extraterrestrial material that happens to land on Earth — ancient meteorites.
Panama has established diplomatic ties with China and broken with Taiwan, as Beijing steps up efforts to isolate Taipei internationally since last year’s election of President Tsai Ing-wen.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced his decision on television Monday evening, saying he was “convinced this is the correct path for our country,” and adding that China constituted 20 percent of the world’s population, was its second-biggest economy and the second-biggest user of the Panama Canal.
China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, and insists that any country that establishes diplomatic relations with Beijing must cut them with Taipei. It says its own relationship with Taipei is founded on the “1992 consensus” between the two sides that effectively rules out the idea of Taiwan ever gaining independence.
But that was a deal reached by the Kuomintang government in Taiwan, not Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, and while Tsai has indicated she respects the agreement, and insists she wants dialogue and friendly ties with Beijing, she has been reluctant to spell out an explicit endorsement.
Taiwan’s government said it would not compete with China in what it described as a “diplomatic money game.”
Born from a deleted, after-midnight tweet from President Donald Trump, the true definition of “covfefe,” remains unsettled, even to the commander in chief, who appeared to mis-type it into existence on Twitter one night last month. But a congressman from Illinois wants to bring new meaning to the word.
The “COVFEFE” Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, Monday, aims to preserve tweets from the president’s personal twitter account, ensuring that Trump’s social media posts are archived as presidential records.
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” Quigley said in a statement. “If the President is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference.”
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills threatened to sue the Trump administration if it decides to reverse the presidential order that created Maine’s national monument.
Mills on Monday issued a news release and a copy of the comments filed with the Department of Interior about the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, less than 36 hours before Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s Wednesday visit to Maine, as part of a federal review of whether it was created legally.
Any action President Donald Trump might take to undo the creation of the monument would be unlawful, Mills said.
When the temperature spikes, we suffer more than our neighbors in the rest of New England, according to new research.
A study published May 10 in the journal Environmental Research tracked hospital emergency department visits and deaths in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont on excessively hot days. Researchers found that both increased significantly. The association was strongest in Maine compared to the other two states and the regional average.
That could mean Mainers are more susceptible to hot weather.
“The Sting,” a CBS “48 Hours” episode about Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents who delved into an infamous 1983 murder of a Belfast Navy chief petty officer, will air on Wednesday.
TV crews visited Belfast last June to film the episode that centers on the murder of Mervin “Sonny” Grotton. Grotton was 46 years old when he was shot three times by a gunman hunkered behind a woodpile in his yard as he walked from his pickup truck to his front door after work.
The murder occurred amid dozens of cocaine-related arrests, including two other murders, at a time when the drug was gripping Waldo County.
Grotton’s murder went unsolved for 17 years, before an undercover investigation led to the indictment of Joel Fuller, Boyd Smith and Grotton’s wife, Norma Grotton Small.
Legislators on Monday endorsed an emergency bill designed to fix a stalled year-old law to allow pharmacists to sell opiate overdose antidotes over the counter without a prescription.
The amendment now heads to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, who unsuccessfully vetoed the original bill, at the time saying the opiate antidote naloxone — commonly sold as Narcan nasal spray — “does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose.”
Longtime Bath City Manager Bill Giroux confirmed Monday that he has resigned and will leave that position July 6.
Giroux, 57, has served as city manager for more than 11 years, following six years as town manager in Bowdoinham. Before that, he worked for the city of Portland for 10 years.
He said Monday he plans to travel and “take a break for a year or two,” then return to municipal managing. He said he has no plans to move from the area.
Living and events
A baby goat stares innocently at the camera. A turkey poses with a farmer. A frog is perched on a log. These are just some of the images on the Instagram account of Copper Tail Farm.
But the precious pictures of goats, birds and other outdoor creates do more for Copper Tail farm than just illicit “likes.” The Instagram and Facebook presences they’ve curated gives them a platform to connect with existing and potential customers outside of the farmers market.
“With people really wanting to know where their food comes from and wanting to know their farmers, [social media] is a good way for them to kind of feel like they know us without having to be at the farm every day,” said Christelle McKee, who owns Copper Tail Farm in Waldoboro with her husband, Jon.
Peter Webb has been a caretaker of high school basketball in Maine for generations, from his playing days at Houlton High School and Ricker College to his 55 years as a certified official.
He also has been the state’s commissioner of basketball for the last quarter-century and his oversight of high school basketball officials often has made him a lightning rod for criticism whenever a particular ruling shapes the outcome of a certain game.
While Webb’s basketball attention has had a Maine focus, his influence on the rules of the game and their enforcement has been global and substantial.
When Webb retires on June 30 from a 17-year tenure as coordinator of rules interpreters for the world’s largest basketball officials organization, the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, he will be replaced by four people.
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!
End Father’s Day with a special paddle along Pushaw Stream in Hirundo Wildlife Refuge. Listen to the evening call of the birds and watch the local, nocturnal wildlife as it begins its “day.”
Suggested donation is $5 per person.
Meet at 35 Hudson Road in Alton at gate 3 at the refuge.
Registration requested, please call 207.394.2171
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 American Red Cross of Maine and the Old Town Fire Rescue Department are teaming up to install free smoke alarms in residents’ homes and teach people how to be prepared for home fires.
Old Town residents can sign up for the free smoke alarm installation by calling Ron Springel of the Red Cross at 874-1192, ext. 113. The Red Cross, the Old Town Fire Rescue Department and community volunteers will follow-up with the installation on July 22.
“Working smoke alarms are key to escaping a home fire safely. That early warning, along with a practiced escape plan to a designated meeting area and early notification to emergency services can greatly reduce death and injuries,” Capt. David Daniels of the Old Town Fire Rescue Department said.
Maine elver fishermen netted more than $12 million in baby eels in the season that ended last week — the fourth-highest grossing year since 1994, officials said.
The season came to a close last week with 9,282 pounds of elvers caught in Maine, which is 334 pounds shy of the statewide catch limit, according to Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Maine wind power is a rural business. That fact provides a conflict point for advocates who say it’s a boost to those rural economies and detractors who argue wind farms mar the landscape.
It also frames a point both sides can agree on: Without new power lines, Maine wind power development is at a standstill.
Setting aside both arguments, it’s a curious regional infrastructure issue, which is the focus for Alan McBride, the director of transmission strategy and services for the nonprofit regional grid operator, ISO-New England.
The distance between major power demand and Maine’s rural wind resource has prompted the ISO to study a way for wind power developers to cooperatively fund power lines they need to connect to the grid.
General Electric Co. said Jeff Immelt would retire as chief executive and would be replaced by John Flannery, the head of GE health care, ending a years-long succession plan.
Immelt, 61, will remain chairman through his retirement on Dec. 31. Flannery will take over as CEO, effective Aug. 1 and chairman following Immelt’s departure.
On paper, Maine has a robust system of independent oversight. By law, the state should have five volunteer groups, called boards of visitors, that are appointed by the governor and empowered to monitor and inspect the state’s five correctional facilities and recommend changes. Another law stipulates there should be a board for each of the 15 county jails.
But in practice the system barely functions.
As part of his review of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is coming to Maine on Tuesday. He wants to gain insight into the history of the monument, which will help him make a recommendation to the president that will shape the future of the Katahdin region, Maine and the nation.
The ongoing review of recent national monument designations and the possibility that the North Woods monument designation could be rescinded has cast a shadow over the region. The blame for this falls squarely on Gov. Paul LePage. Instead of working to ensure this new economic driver is successful — and this is a region that could use it — he told Congress the majority of Mainers oppose the monument; there was insufficient public outreach; there haven’t been economic benefits; the Katahdin region is infested with mosquitoes and, therefore, not worth visiting; and that Mainers are losing traditional recreation opportunities and livelihoods.
None of this is true.
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is a big failure of American leadership. But there are Republicans in Congress who have demonstrated their willingness to lead on climate change, and the moment has arrived for them to step up again.