Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.
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National and international headline
The White House is weighing whether to move Press Secretary Sean Spicer into a more senior role focused on strategy and bring in a new spokesman for the president, two people familiar with the discussions said.
Spicer has served as President Donald Trump’s press secretary since the beginning of the administration in January. He’s been the subject of speculation for months that he was on the verge of being fired. The discussions on reorganizing the White House communications operation are still preliminary and no final decision has been made, the people said.
In recent weeks, a number of Spicer’s question-and-answer sessions with reporters have been conducted off-camera, including on Monday. Earlier in the administration, the briefings were a major draw for political junkies, often broadcast live in their entirety on cable news networks.
His performances inspired a scathing parody by “Saturday Night Live,” with actress Melissa McCarthy delivering a gender-bending portrayal of the press secretary as a short, shrill buffoon.
In a city on edge over a series of Islamist-inspired attacks, where police keep extensive watchlists and monitor potential militants, terror took a new turn when a van plowed into a group of Muslim worshippers here Monday.
A man identified as Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old Welshman from Cardiff, was allegedly behind the wheel. He was not an any security watchlists. But if he took the authorities by surprise, the act capped a growing dread in London’s Muslim community.
High-level U.S. government officials including former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI director Robert Mueller cannot be held liable for the alleged unconstitutional treatment of noncitizens detained after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The first hints of an uncertain future for the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS came last year, when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign refused to meet with advocates for people living with HIV, said Scott Schoettes, a member of the council since 2014.
That unease was magnified on Inauguration Day in January, when an official White House website for the Office of National AIDS Policy vanished, Schoettes said.
“I started to think, was it going to be useful or wise or would it be possible to work with this administration?” Schoettes told The Washington Post. “Still, I made a decision to stick it out and see what we could do.”
Less than six months later, Schoettes said those initial reservations had given way to full-blown frustration over a lack of dialogue with or caring from Trump administration officials about issues relating to HIV or AIDS.
Otto Warmbier, University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea for nearly a year and a half, died Monday afternoon, his parents announced.
Warmbier returned from North Korea last week in a coma, and his father Fred Warmbier denounced the “pariah” regime that brutalized his son.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier issued a statement Monday afternoon:
“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.”
A Republican contractor’s database of nearly every voter was left exposed on the internet for 12 days, researcher says
Detailed information on nearly every U.S. voter — including in some cases their ethnicity, religion and views on political issues — was left exposed online for two weeks by a political consultancy which works for the Republican National Committee and other GOP clients.
The data offered a strikingly complete picture of the voting histories and political leanings of the American electorate laid out on an easily downloadable format, cybersecurity researcher Chris Vickery said. He discovered the unprotected files of 198 million voters in a routine scan of the internet last week and alerted law enforcement officials.
The precision and volume of the information, including dozens of data points on individual Republicans, Democrats and independent voters, highlights the rising sophistication of the data-mining efforts that have become central to modern political campaigns.
With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Paul LePage last week enacted landmark legislation putting Maine in the forefront of the food sovereignty movement.
LePage signed LD 725, An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems, Friday legitimizing the authority of towns and communities to enact ordinances regulating local food distribution free from state regulatory control.
Retired test electrician Dan Dowling watched news coverage of the collision of a Philippine container ship with the USS Fitzgerald on Saturday with particular interest.
Dowling, who retired earlier this year after 33 years, worked with other shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works to ready the future USS Fitzgerald — known in the yard as DDG 62 — for the U.S. Navy prior to its January 1994 launch.
As saddened as he was about the seven sailors killed in the crash south of Tokyo Bay, Dowling said he felt a sense of pride when the Bath-built Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer withstood the devastating impact with a much larger ship. Although he’s no longer at the yard every day, he said the incident was a testament to the quality ships produced at BIW.
“It was a catastrophic event — a collision at sea,” he said of the incident. “Basically the DDG was T-boned by a ship much larger than itself. It’s a testimonial to the workers that BIW can produce a quality ship that can withstand that type of catastrophe.”
Attorney General Janet Mills said she’s concerned with the dramatic rise in the number of people shot to death by Maine law enforcement officers this year but is satisfied with the standards her office uses in deciding whether fatal force was “justified.”
Twice as many people have been fatally shot by Maine police so far this year as in all of 2016 and 2015 combined. The attorney general’s office since 1990 has been in charge of investigating such cases and has never found a shooting unjustified.
“The number of fatal police shootings this year is concerning,” Mills said. “The standard applied to police in the use of lethal force is the same standard applied to civilians under the law so they can protect themselves and/or others from the threat or use of deadly force.”
A fisherman identified by the Maine Marine Patrol caught too many pogies in his purse seine last week to load onto his boat, and left the overflow floating in Maquoit and Middle bays.
By mid-week, the “choking stench” of the rotting fish left waterfront owners with no choice but to close their windows and stay inside.
But Maine Department of Marine Resources spokesman Jeff Nichols said later Monday that the Maine Marine Patrol had identified and spoken to the fisherman who was responsible for the kill, but he declined to release any identifying information.
“There’s been no violation here,” Nichols said. “There’s also no indication of any public health threat.”
A judge has denied the request for a new trial by the landlord who was sentenced to 90 days in jail for his role in Maine’s deadliest house fire in decades.
Gregory Nisbet — who was convicted last October of a single fire code violation, but acquitted of six counts of manslaughter and several other code violations related to a fatal 2014 fire at his Portland duplex — will not be allowed to stand trial again nor have his single misdemeanor conviction dismissed, Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren ruled last week.
The decision comes as the latest step in drawn-out legal proceedings that have sought to hold Nisbet criminally and civilly responsible for the accidental fire at 20 Noyes St. that killed six young adults on Halloween three years ago.
Living and events
In the summertime, driving on U.S. Route 1 on the Maine coast can be a hectic, frustrating experience, as increased traffic causes slowdowns and headaches on the road.
Just minutes from the busy coastal thoroughfare, though, there’s a peaceful haven: the Merryspring Nature Center, on 66 acres that includes gardens, four miles of hiking trails, a 10-acre arboretum and more. And even though it is in the heart of well-heeled Camden, it’s not a fancy place. There’s free admission and much of the work to keep it going is done by dedicated volunteers. The center has an endowment, but strives to pay its bills just with donations and income from membership dues, admissions from classes, workshops and lectures and funds generated by private events held there such as weddings.
“It’s kind of an oasis in the busy Camden-Rockport area,” said Toni Goodridge, who has worked at the center for about 20 years. “I love that it’s so easy to come to and so quiet and peaceful. I love my job because it’s in a quiet, peaceful place.”
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 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.
More than 50 teams will take part in the 2017 Maine Summer Adventure Race 7 a.m.-7 p.m. June 24, Hidden Valley Nature Center, 131 Egypt Road. The teams are composed of more than 115 individuals from 11 states, who will all get the chance to explore the Midcoast region by boat, bicycle and foot in a single day.
Now in its second year, the Maine Summer Adventure Race involves teams of two, three or four competing in a nonstop race including trail running or trekking, road and mountain biking, sea kayaking and orienteering. Teams will have to combine athleticism with strategy and navigation to guide themselves to as many checkpoints as possible within the race’s time limit.
A Strawberry Festival will be held 4-6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at Dirigo Grange Hall, Route 137.
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.
The Rt. 17 Ramblers featuring Rosey Gerry are on tap and will play a free lawn concert at the Rockport Masonic Center from 6 to 7 p.m. June 28. The event is free to the public with pass the hat donations taken for the band. You are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the summer night and music.
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.
Waterville will host the 2017 Appalachian Trail Conservancy Conference. It will be held at Colby College Aug.4-11.
The week-long event features over 240 hikes, numerous workshops, and excursions to local areas of interest.
Each evening there are exciting adventure presentations and stellar entertainment.
In private meetings, the company hoping to reboot the shuttered Great Northern Paper mill property has presented an uncomfortable fact: Its first U.S. investment was through Cate Street Capital, the firm whose revival effort fizzled after two years despite $16 million in state aid.
The company proposing an ambitious plan to turn Maine’s forests into energy haven’t volunteered much about their past experience with such projects, but a regulatory filing made public this week helps shed light on their history. Court filings and other documents were also key.
The release of the new regulatory filing detailing the company’s plan for two biomass facilities in the state and the experience of the company founders comes as it plans to buy the former site of the Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket and as it seeks customers for waste heat and other byproducts from two biomass energy plants, where it hopes to build out “bio-energy parks.”
As contentious negotiations over a state budget for the next two years press on in Augusta, it is important for lawmakers and the public to keep two things in mind. First, maintaining a surtax on high earners is not a tax increase. Second, unlike in past years, Maine does not have a revenue shortfall, so it is not necessary to cut programs and reduce state spending to balance the budget.
So, any proposal to shrink or eliminate the surtax is a tax cut for Maine’s wealthiest residents. It will also reduce the amount of revenue the state collects.
There are those who are concerned about the fate of drug traffickers, but the law demands I protect the lives of victims that are ruined by drug trafficking and violent crime infecting their communities. Our new, time-tested policy empowers police and prosecutors to save lives.
People who’ve become addicted to opioids often tell troubling stories about debilitating physical symptoms, the loss of jobs and homes, and an inability to care for their kids and other people who are important to them.
In some cases, they even become involved in criminal activity that threatens the stability of both families and communities. When that happens, the costs are staggering — each year opioid addiction costs society an additional $1.5 billion in police protection, $726 million in adjudication, and $625 million in propertyloss.
For these reasons and more, this is a significant issue for those of us in law enforcement — one we simply cannot arrest our way out of. Based on ample research and our professional experience, we know that effective treatment is crucial for getting people back on track for productive lives.