Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.
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National and international headlines
A small Christian school in western Maryland is not backing down from its decision to ban a pregnant senior from walking at graduation next week.
Despite a public outcry and growing pressure from national antiabortion groups to reconsider, Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland, says that senior Maddi Runkles broke the school’s rules by engaging in intimate sexual activity.
In a letter to parents Tuesday evening, school principal David Hobbs said that Runkles is being disciplined, “not because she is pregnant but because she was immoral. … The best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her morality that began this situation.”
In an interview released Wednesday, Housing Secretary Ben Carson said that a “certain mind-set” contributes to people living in poverty, pointing to habits and a “state of mind” children take from their parents at a young age.
“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mind-set, you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there,” he said during an interview on SiriusXM Radio with Armstrong Williams, a longtime friend.
“And you take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom,” he said.
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday said that tax receipts were coming in “slower than expected” and that the federal government could run out of cash sooner than it had thought to pay its bills.
Mulvaney’s comments, which came during a House Budget Committee hearing, resurrected an issue that Congress has mostly ignored in recent months but will soon trigger tough political decisions.
The government runs a budget deficit because it spends more money than it brings in through revenue, and it borrows money to cover that difference by issuing debt. There is a legal limit, though, on how much debt the government can issue, and this limit must be raised by Congress.
In 2015, the Obama administration and Congress agreed to suspend the debt ceiling, but the extension expired in mid-March. Now the Treasury Department is taking emergency steps to suspend certain payments so that it can cover all of its bills, but it can only do this for a few more months.
Health care legislation adopted by House Republicans earlier this month would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured within a decade, the Congressional Budget Office projected Wednesday – only a million fewer than the projection for the House’s earlier bill.
The finding, which is sure to draw fire from Democrats, patient advocates and many health industry officials, could complicate Republicans’ push to pass a companion bill in the Senate.
The new estimate, which reflects a series of last-minute revisions Republicans made to win over several conservative lawmakers and a handful of moderates, calculates that the American Health Care Act would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026. That represents a smaller reduction than the $150 billion CBO estimated in late March, largely because House leaders provided more money in the final bill to offset costs for consumers with expensive medical conditions and included language that could translate to greater federal spending on insurance subsidies.
A ferociously fought jury-selection battle marred by racism allegations and the surprise removal of a seated juror ended late Wednesday with the empaneling of seven men and five women who will decide whether comic legend Bill Cosby is guilty of sexual assault.
Mary Mayhew, who has served as Maine commissioner of Health and Human Services since the early days of Gov. Paul LePage’s tenure, will be leaving that post Friday.
LePage announced her departure Wednesday in a prepared statement, in which he said she did an “exceptional job” at the helm of state government’s largest department.
It was not clear what Mayhew plans to do next. She has been mentioned as a 2018 Republican candidate for governor but has not made any official declaration.
Orono police Officer Peter Wentworth found something a bit unnerving while on patrol Tuesday night. He noticed an open door at an apartment building that was supposed to be vacant.
While checking the building, Wentworth flicked on the lights to the basement, which illuminated something at the bottom of the stairs — a creepy clown doll on the basement floor.
“I’d be lying if I said that didn’t startle us slightly,” the department said in the post. “On a side note if Stephen King is looking for extras in ‘It,’ we found one.”
A Benedicta couple who oppose the governor’s ban of road signs showing the way to Maine’s national monument hung their own signage on a highway overpass.
But it didn’t last long.
Herman and Lisa Ammerman said they put up a spraypainted painter’s cloth sign advertising the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument’s accessibility via exit 262 at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday. By the next afternoon, it was gone.
It was unclear exactly who took down the sign. Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said state workers removed a sign left at the same location, Benedicta’s Casey Road bridge on the northbound side of Interstate 95, on Wednesday. But he didn’t know if workers removed Herman and Lisa Ammerman’s sign, or someone else’s. Talbot said the sign was illegally placed, and hazardous.
Calais Regional Hospital will close its obstetrics department, a move that will leave Washington County with just one hospital fully equipped to deliver newborns.
Since 2007, the hospital’s delivery rate has dropped from more than 100 births annually to just 60 last year, according to a statement from Calais Regional. That decline, coupled with a shortage of nursing staff, lead to “heavy financial losses” in the obstetrics department that the board determined the hospital can no longer sustain, the hospital said.
The survivor of a 2015 double shooting on Center Street that left one man dead testified Wednesday that he was shot six times but was unsure which of the two alleged gunmen pulled the trigger.
Thomas “Ferg” Ferguson, 38, and Robert “Rocco” Hansley, 28, both of Brooklyn, New York, are charged with murder and elevated aggravated assault in the shooting that left Robert “Ricco” Mark Kennedy, 38, of Bangor dead and wounded Barry Jenkins, 42, who was visiting from Brooklyn, New York.
The Maine Senate overwhelmingly voted on Wednesday to fund a Machiasport prison slated for a hasty closure by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration, setting up a showdown with the governor as he readies a vague plan to commute state inmates’ sentences.
The joint order from Sen. Joyce Maker, R-Calais, would fund the 100-inmate Downeast Correctional Facility into the next state budget year, which could allow union representatives to file an injunction to block the planned June closure of the prison announced last week.
It passed the Senate in a 30-3 vote on Wednesday and faces further action in the House of Representatives. Maker and other Washington County representatives have been fighting proposals to close prison since LePage first proposed it in 2011.
It took just moments at lunchtime Tuesday for the calm of the empty Mount View High School cafeteria to dissolve into near-chaos, as hungry, boisterous students jockeyed for position around some of the day’s kitchen offerings: chicken cacciatore, pepperoni pizza and American chop suey.
It was a scene that on the surface, at least, was replicated in countless schools around the state. But school lunch in Regional School Unit 3, home to the Mount View school complex, is special. Thanks to a heavy focus on locally sourced foods, the chicken cacciatore is made with summer squash and zucchini grown at nearby farms and the American chop suey features ground beef from cattle raised in the rolling green fields just across the road from the school. Thanks in part to the Obama-era push for healthier meals in schools, the decadent-looking pepperoni pizza is made with a whole wheat crust and low-sodium, low-fat cheese. Moreover, because the district qualifies for federal funding, every one of the district’s students can eat a nutritious, balanced breakfast and lunch at the school for free.
An RSU 3 official said current rollbacks of the Obama-era school nutrition standards shouldn’t endanger what makes the district unique. But she is also hoping the move toward relaxing the standards will not go much further, so school lunches will not return to the old days of mystery meat when scratch cooking, healthy ingredients and fresh produce were afterthoughts, if present in cafeterias at all.
“I’m on board with staying right where we’re at,” Allison Daugherty, school nutrition director for RSU 3, said of the nutrition standards. “Our mission is to provide students with a nutritious meal that they can choose in order to help them with academic success. That’s our only mission.”
Living and events
Where should you hike with the kids next? That’s the question a new hiking guide by Bangor Daily News outdoors columnist Aislinn Sarnacki seeks to answer. The recently released book “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine” features 35 easy hikes from across the state.
And if anyone knows hiking here in Maine, it’s Sarnacki. She estimates she’s hiked 250 trails in Maine since she began writing her popular weekly column “1-Minute Hikes,” five and a half years ago.
For “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” Sarnacki wanted to include hikes from around the state that would be ideal for families. The 35 hikes featured in the book allow Mainers to improve their own mental and physical health, while exploring the beauty of Maine.
“I know not everybody has a backyard and forest of their own, but that’s why these trails are so cool, is that you can get them out on public lands,” Sarnacki said.
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.
Three hundred years ago, the pirate ship Whydah, sank in a storm off Cape Cod laden with bounty from more than 50 captured ships.
On May 26, the classical age of piracy comes to life in Portland when the Portland Science Center at 68 Commercial St., Maine Wharf, welcomes “Real Pirates: An Exhibition from National Geographic.” Tickets for the general public go on sale April 26, at portlandsciencecenter.com.
The 7,000-square-foot interactive exhibition showcases more than 150 artifacts, including everyday objects, personal items, and treasures, from the first fully authenticated pirate ship ever to be discovered in U.S. waters.
Exhibitions International, a leading producer of touring exhibitions, presents “Real Pirates,” with organizational expertise from the National Geographic Society.
Solar prices have never been lower! Solarize Midcoast Maine program participants receive discounted solar pricing.
Come meet Sundog Solar, the Solarize Midcoast Maine installer, learn about the benefits of solar power, and get a free consultation about solar energy for your home.
The session will be held at Belfast Free Library, 106 High Street, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31.
Come to the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, June, to sample wings from restaurants all over the Bangor region. You will get to vote for your favorite wing of the night and the winner will receive a huge trophy, bragging rights and a profile in Bangor Metro magazine.
Tickets are just $20 per person and can be reserved online at wingfestmaine.com They will be $25 at the door.
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 Camden Public Library will have a book sale in the renovated Blue Door Book Shed located in the parking lot just beyond the Library Amphitheatre on Atlantic Avenue 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 2-4. Just follow the balloons from the library to the book shed!
There you will find hardcover, softcover, and paperback books on subjects from art to travel, cookbooks and maritime-related books; books for children and teens; a variety of CDs, audiobooks, movies, and music; and a selection of reference books that might be particularly helpful to area homeschoolers.
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 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.
A lack of inventory caused Maine home sales to drop sharply in April, the second month this year when the total reported number of existing home sales tracked lower than last year.
Prices continued to climb, however, as the inventory of single-family homes on the market was 25 percent lower than last year, according to the Maine Realtors Association.
“Low inventory is impacting potential sellers as well. Some are hesitant to list their homes without a suitable ‘next step’ to move into,” said Greg Gosselin, president of the association.
FairPoint Communications’ new owner has agreed to invest $52.2 million in its networks and facilities in Maine if regulators approve a merger between the company that serves northern New England and its potential new owner, Illinois-based Consolidated Communications.
The stipulation leaves open questions of how Consolidated plans to find $55 million in annual savings through “synergies” but lays out a three-year investment plan sought by the Office of the Public Advocate and unions.
Reducing assistance for poor people in the U.S. is a centerpiece of the budget the Trump administration unveiled Tuesday. It calls for huge cuts to Medicaid, Social Security disability payments, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food assistance and other anti-poverty programs. It also would pass more responsibility for many of these programs to states and implement work requirements, like Maine’s, to be eligible for assistance. On the other side of the ledger, it would lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
The theory, articulated by budget director Mick Mulvaney, is that if poor people are offered less help, they’ll stop being poor.
This should sound familiar to Maine residents because it is precisely the false logic repeated by Gov. Paul LePage and members of his administration to justify cuts to social programs here in the Pine Tree State.
Imagine living in a nightmare that you can never wake up from. Imagine having to face every single day knowing that your son was murdered. Imagine you have no answers — that no one has been brought to justice and there are few clues leading to the killer or killers. Imagine that every single day, with every phone call you hope that it’s the police, calling to tell you that there has been a break in the case.
Imagine that instead, every call that comes in is a reporter asking what you think of a series of lies or conspiracies about the death. That nightmare is what our family goes through every day.
When I heard late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional monologue about his son’s condition and his family’s experience in the moments after his birth, I had a flashback to the day my son was born and we learned he had Down syndrome.
My husband and I had a lot of questions about Cole’s future. Whether he’d have health care shouldn’t have had to be one of them. When you’re facing years of doctor’s appointments, you want to know that having a pre-existing condition, such as an extra 21st chromosome or a heart defect, won’t prevent you or your loved ones from accessing the care you need.
Protections for children such as Cole Rodgers and Billy Kimmel have long existed, as they should. And despite what people are saying, House Republicans aren’t seeking to strip these protections — or anyone’s protections — away.
It’s the people we love — our children, friends and neighbors — who are the inspiration behind our American Health Care Act, which we passed in the House earlier this month.