Interior Secretary Zinke wants more ‘front line’ help in parks, but he can’t give details

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National and international headlines

Interior secretary wants more ‘front line’ help in parks, but he can’t give details

People enjoy the views near Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park, June 30, 2016.
Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he’ll ease the impact of potentially huge National Park Service budget cuts by shifting more resources to the “front line.” But it’s not clear yet what that actually means.

The department earlier this year laid out the potential effects in its justification for the funding reductions in fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

“At these [funding] levels, visitors and partners will experience service reductions, and remaining employees will face heavier workloads. At this funding level, nearly 90 percent of parks would reduce their current staffing levels, leading to a reduction in services to the public,” it said.

It added that “reductions to both the seasonal and permanent workforce would have an immediate impact on day-to-day park operations.”

Zinke, though, has tried to ease the pain, explaining he was out for more efficiency, not tourist inconvenience.

Senate Republicans delay vote, scramble to keep alive plans to overhaul Obamacare

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is surrounded by reporters as he walks to the Senate floor of the U.S. Capitol after unveiling a draft bill on healthcare in Washington, June 22, 2017.
KEVIN LAMARQUE | REUTERS

Senate Republican leaders scrambled Tuesday to keep alive their plans to overhaul the 2010 Affordable Care Act and postponed a key procedural vote as a growing number of senators expressed doubts about the measure after the release of a fresh budget analysis.

The current proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured by the end of the coming decade while reducing federal spending by $321 billion during that time, the Congressional Budget Office concluded Monday.

The forecast by Congress’ nonpartisan budget scorekeepers appeared to rapidly erode Republicans’ confidence in the bill, with at least four GOP lawmakers saying by the evening that they would vote against even a procedural motion to start debate.

Massive cyberattack hits Europe with widespread ransom demands

A logo of Russian state oil firm Rosneft is seen at its office in Moscow, Oct. 18, 2012. Rosneft was among those reportedly hit by a widespread cyberattack that hit Europe on Tuesday.
MAXIM SHEMETOV | REUTERS

A new wave of powerful cyberattacks hit Europe on Tuesday in a possible reprise of a widespread ransomware assault in May that affected 150 countries, as Ukraine reported ransom demands targeting the government and key infrastructure, and the Danish Maersk conglomerate said many of its systems were down.

The Russian oil giant Rosneft was also hit, as was the British advertising and marketing multinational WPP. Norway’s National Security Authority said an “international company” there was affected.

Park service didn’t alter Trump inauguration crowd size count, inspector general finds

People gather on the National Mall to attend the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017.
Olivier Douliery | ABACA PRESS | TNS

A new Interior Department inspector general report is further muddying the already murky situation surrounding White House claims that the crowd at President Donald Trump’s inauguration was the largest in American history.

The report found “no evidence to substantiate” complaints that National Park Service employees altered records related to crowd-size estimates for Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. The inspector general also found no evidence to support the unnamed complainant’s allegation that a park service employee mishandled photos of the event and posted political comments on Facebook.

Local headlines

The Penobscot County Jail is trying something new to fight the opioid crisis

Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton discusses how Penobscot County Jail workers are trying to help inmates combat opioid addiction.
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN

The Penobscot County Jail is more than just a correctional facility. It’s also, by default, the largest detoxification center in the region.

That means it’s the perfect place to pilot a drug treatment program that uses counseling combined with Vivitrol, a monthly shot that makes it impossible to get high on opioids or alcohol, but also requires a period of abstinence before beginning.

LePage: ‘I believe we’re going to shut down Friday night’

Gov. Paul LePage
BDN File

Talks on Maine’s two-year budget took a pessimistic turn Tuesday morning, when Gov. Paul LePage said he thinks state government will shut down Friday and a glum panel of lawmakers convened to report little progress in negotiations.

The Republican governor looms large over the negotiations. In a radio interview Tuesday on WVOM he accused Democrats of backing measures that will “do damage” to the state — namely preserving the voter-approved 3 percent surtax on income above $200,000 per year that’s earmarked for public schools.

He also said Tuesday he would not accept any last-minute proposals to increase other taxes and that any budget presented to him would have to address what he claims is the negative impact of land conservation on property taxes.

“I believe we’re going to shut down Friday night,” LePage said. “They asked me last night, what’s the cost of shutting down? The future of Maine. The future of Maine is worth shutting it down.”

LePage signs bill into law to restore Maine tip credit

The Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage have repealed part of the minimum wage law enacted by voters in November 2016 by restoring the tip credit for Maine businesses that employ tipped workers.

Passage of the bill means that tipped workers, such as those in the service industry, will resume collecting tips and won’t see their minimum wage increase parallel with the rest of the state.

Maine Senate votes to scrap ranked-choice election system

The Maine Senate Tuesday took the first step in scuttling a voter-approved state election overhaul before it’s implemented.

The Senate voted 21-13 to repeal the ranked choice voting law that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

The repeal movement follows a Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion that a key part of the law is likely unconstitutional. While lawmakers are also considering a constitutional amendment, it has yet to achieve the two-thirds support necessary to go to voters for final ratification.

Maine confirms first measles case in 20 years

A measles vaccine
LUCY NICHOLSON | REUTERS

Maine health officials confirmed a case of measles Tuesday, issuing a warning that the public was potentially exposed to the highly contagious virus in mid-June at several locations in Franklin County.

This is the first case of measles recorded in Maine in 20 years, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Living and events

UMaine softball player wows social media with football toss

University of Maine’s Alyssa Derrick throws a ball to first during softball practice in April
Ashley L. Conti | BDN

All Alyssa Derrick was doing on May 3 was tossing a football around an apartment complex parking lot.

Little did the the third baseman for the University of Maine softball team know that her strong arm would lead her to become an internet sensation.

Layers in Time: Hands-on Exploration of Wabanaki Life and Culture Through the Ages

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!

Panel discussion on ‘Mountain Lions in Maine’ 

BookSpeak, a literary forum based in Damariscotta, will hold a panel discussion by scientists and environmental writers titled “Mountain Lions in Maine: Rewilding the Maine Woods” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, in the Darrows Barn at Damariscotta River Association’s Round Top Farm, 3 Round Top Lane.

Rt. 17 Ramblers to hold free concert at Rockport Masonic Center

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.

History of Maine fire towers

Collin Brown

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.

195th Army Band to play Old Town concert series

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.

Red Cross and Old Town Fire Rescue partner to install free smoke alarms

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.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy 2017 Maine Conference coming to Waterville

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

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.

Business headlines

Bangor councilor wants city to fund training for airplane mechanics at private company

An aircraft in the painting hangar at C&L Aviation in Bangor.
Gabor Degre | BDN

A Bangor city councilor wants to spend as much as $2 million in city funds to create a program to train airplane mechanics for a local company that overhauls private jets.

City Council Chairman Joe Baldacci proposed the idea at a city council workshop on Monday, saying that the city funds could entice a Maine college to start a program.

“I think we need to take an economic leadership because no one else is,” he said.

UPS to freeze pensions for 70,000 nonunion workers to cut costs

United Parcel Service vans are seen parked outside a UPS facility in San Francisco, June 14, 2017.
STEPHEN LAM | REUTERS

United Parcel Service Inc. will freeze a pension plan for about 70,000 nonunion U.S. employees because of escalating costs and volatility in determining future payments, replacing it with a different retirement benefit.

The shift won’t occur until Jan. 1, 2023, giving affected workers more than five years to prepare, the shipping company said Tuesday. Most of the employees, which account for about 16 percent of the company’s workforce, are in administrative or management positions.

Fox Sports cuts web writing staff to invest more in online video

San Diego Padres right fielder Hunter Renfroe (10) smiles as he is interviewed by Fox reporter Bob Scanlan (R) after hitting a walk off home run to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 at Petco Park.
Jake Roth | USA Today Sports

21st Century Fox Inc.’s sports department is overhauling its online operations, eliminating the writing staff to invest in more-lucrative video production.

Fox Sports will eliminate about 20 writing and editing positions in Los Angeles and replace them with a similar number of jobs in video production, editing and promotion. Executives told staff in meetings Monday after outlining the new strategy in a memo obtained by Bloomberg. Affected employees will be encouraged to apply for the new posts.

Opinion headlines

To reach a budget deal, Maine needs leadership from LePage, not a game of chicken

Gov. Paul LePage

We’re at a loss to understand why Gov. Paul LePage thinks a government shutdown is a good idea that will somehow save Maine from a dismal future.

With only five days left before Maine needs a budget in place, LePage has again abdicated his responsibility, lobbed more demands at lawmakers, insulted Democrats and left the state.

This is horrifying — and irresponsible — behavior from a chief executive.

My faith calls on me to oppose the Senate’s immoral health care bill

George Danby | BDN

What does it mean to serve the public? It’s a question I contemplate everyday as a state representative, proudly serving Biddeford in the Maine House of Representatives. Many of the same values I cherish in my civil service are values that I share in my Catholic faith: service and integrity.

It is in reflection of this value of service that I was appalled to watch the U.S. House of Representatives vote to pass the American Health Care Act. The Republican-backed bill would make major cuts to health care programs, in particular Medicaid, a program on which constituents in my district depend. I feel even more morally enraged seeing now that the Senate version contains many of the harmful pieces of the House version.

Service informs my call as a civil servant to stand up against attacks on the poor and most vulnerable

Why don’t deficit hawks care about the cost of military adventurism?

F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets and E-2D Hawkeye plane are seen on the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis during joint military exercise called Malabar, with the United States, Japan and India participating, off Japan’s southernmost island of Okinawa, Japan, June 15, 2016.
REUTERS

Crippling deficits and a nightmarish national debt are popular, recurring tropes in American politics: Every few months, politicians and the pundit class seem to recall that we’re broke. While some are no doubt sincere in their concern, our pocketbook cops are wildly inconsistent. They complain that America is running out of money when it comes to helping the poor, people of color, the disabled and the elderly. Their worries miraculously disappear whenever the military wants to start a new war.