Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.
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National and international headline
One of the nation’s leading marijuana legalization groups says PNC Bank has notified it that it will close the organization’s 22-year-old accounts, a sign of growing concerns in the financial industry that the Trump administration will crack down on the marijuana industry in states that have legalized it.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) lobbies to eliminate punishments for marijuana use but is not involved in growing or distributing the drug – an important distinction for federally regulated banks and other institutions that do business with such advocacy groups.
Nick Field, MPP’s chief operating officer, said a PNC Bank representative told him in May that the organization’s bank accounts would be permanently closed July 7 because an audit of the organization’s accounts revealed it received funding from marijuana businesses that handle the plant directly.
“They told me it is too risky. The bank can’t assume the risk,” Field said.
Nine years into the 15-year sentence he received in 2008 for a bizarre armed robbery attempt to recover sports memorabilia in Las Vegas, O.J. Simpson is again facing parole.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Simpson, who is serving his time at Lovelock Correctional Center, will remotely be interviewed by the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners on July 20 in Carson City, Nevada. If the board decides Simpson satisfied the necessary requirements to be granted parole, the Hollywood Reporter reports the former football star could be released in October.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been under fire in recent months for his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race, has retained the services of Washington lawyer Charles Cooper, a longtime friend.
Cooper was seen sitting behind Sessions when he testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Donald Trump and Russia.
“I do represent the Attorney General, but, as with all clients, do not comment on confidential client matters,” Cooper wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that he did not know whether President Donald Trump believes Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite the conclusion of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that the country did.
Spicer was asked a yes-or-no question near the end of a press briefing: Does Trump believe the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election?
“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,” Spicer said, resorting to the fallback answer he frequently gives in response to difficult or controversial questions — that he has not had a chance to ask the president his views.
U.S. coffee chain Starbucks Corp. said Tuesday it will hire 2,500 refugees in Europe as part of a wider worldwide hiring plan, months after the policy prompted a backlash from some customers.
The world’s largest coffee chain said it would hire the refugees at its European stores starting in eight countries over the next five years and had already started recruitment.
The move is part of the Seattle-based company’s plan, unveiled in January, to add 10,000 refugees in 75 countries to its workforce.
A potentially deadly terrorist bombing at a central Brussels train station was averted after a nail-packed device in a bag failed to fully detonate, a Belgian prosecutor said Wednesday, a day after the attack at the crowded rail hub.
A 36-year-old Moroccan national who lived in Brussels attempted the attack, which started at 8:39 p.m. Tuesday, prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said. The man, identified only by his initials, O.Z., was known to police but had no previously discovered terrorist ties, the prosecutor said.
He was shot dead after he shouted “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “God is great” – and tried to attack a soldier in the station, Van der Sypt said.
Prince Philip, the 96-year-old husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, has been admitted to hospital with an infection and will miss the formal opening of parliament, but he remains in good spirits, Buckingham Palace said.
Philip, whose official title is Duke of Edinburgh and has sometimes drawn attention with headline-grabbing gaffes, has been by the queen’s side throughout her 65 years on the throne and she has described him as “my strength and stay.”
The difficulty of entering the new Bangor district office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has triggered accusations that he is insensitive both to the needs of constituents with mobility problems and to the accessibility required by federal law.
“It’s four steep steps down into his office,” Bangor resident Samantha Le said Tuesday. “His office is not ADA compliant,” she said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Poliquin’s new office is in Suite 7 inside 4 Union Plaza, a building under the Bangor side of the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.
Hector, a tan beagle, was the only puppy still up for adoption at the Bangor Humane Society on Tuesday afternoon when Ada Webb finally got her turn to choose.
And she couldn’t be more delighted with Hector, though she suspects he will be getting a new name to go along with his new family. Webb said she planned to surprise her 9-year-old son, Trapper, later that afternoon.
“I’m hoping he’s going to flip right out,” said Webb, who lives in Norridgewock, “He has no idea that I’m even thinking about getting a dog.”
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke once again hinted Tuesday that he won’t advise President Donald Trump to get rid of Maine’s national monument.
Speaking this time to U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Zinke predicted that both Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument’s supporters and its opponents will be “enthusiastic” about the recommendations he will make to President Trump on Aug. 24.
“I am sure you are going to be enthusiastic about the recommendation as well as the governor,” Zinke said Tuesday. “I have talked to the governor, and I think we have a reasonable approach with the recommendation that all parties will be satisfied with.”
Maine spends more on health care per person than most other states, according to a new federal study that shows wide variation across the country.
Maine spent $9,531 on health care per capita in 2014, the 11th-highest amount in the nation. That figure reflects a wide range of health costs, funded by both public and private insurance programs, from doctor visits and hospitalizations to insurance co-pays and prescription drugs.
The national average was $8,045.
A bill to outlaw the use of hand-held cellphones and other hand-held devices while driving has passed both chambers of the Maine Legislature.
The bill, versions of which have been debated and rejected for years in Maine, passed 85-60 Tuesday in the House and 21-14 last week in the Senate. The bill bars the use of hand-held devices but would preserve the legality of using phones capable of hands-free operation. The bill establishes penalties of $75 for a first offense and fines of up to $500 along with license suspensions for subsequent violations.
A 38-year-old Woolwich man pleaded guilty on Friday to illegally trafficking in poached elvers — juvenile American eels — in 2012.
Michael Squillace pleaded guilty to violating the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits interstate transport or transactions of any species of fish or wildlife illegally harvested or handled in any state. He was released on personal recognizance, according to court documents. A sentencing date was not available on Monday. He faces up to five years in prison with a maximum of 3 years supervised release.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Environmental Crimes Section said Squillace illegally sold 183 pounds of elvers, valued at about $375,000, to an unnamed Maine elver dealer.
Living and events
In the pantheon of classic baking recipes, there are a few that are considered to be among the most challenging to master. Recipes for delicate croissants and airy souffles, for instance, require a mixture of patience, expertise, creativity and talent in order to successfully pull off.
The petite, colorful French macaron — the French confection consisting of two meringue-based cookies composed of nothing but beaten egg whites, sugar and finely ground almonds and a filling of flavored buttercream, ganache or jam — is another one of those recipes.
Macarons, not to be confused with macaroons, a coconut cookie, or Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, are a challenge that 14-year-old John Bapst High School student Jaelin Roberts has mastered. She estimates she made hundreds of macarons before she felt like she’d perfected it.
“It took me a really, really long time to get it right,” said Roberts, a Bangor resident. “I look at pictures of some of the first ones I did and I’m, like, ugh.”
Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring from acting, his spokeswoman said on Tuesday, ending a storied movie career that includes performances in “Lincoln” and “Gangs of New York.”
Day-Lewis, 60, the only man to have won three best actor Oscars, gave no reason for his decision, calling it private.
“Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor,” his publicist, Leslee Dart, said in a statement. “He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years.”
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.
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.
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.
Sixteen years after Dexter Shoe Co. closed, shoe manufacturing might be coming back to Maine — in the form of $325 hand-sewn penny loafers.
MaineSole — co-founded by Dick Hall, former vice president for manufacturing for Dexter Shoe — is up and running in Dexter, with the hopes of putting the town back on the map after it has fallen into disarray following the loss of its main job provider, Bloomberg reports.
Owner of landmark Portland eatery to plead guilty to tax evasion, faces jail time and $1M in back taxes
The owner of an iconic waterfront restaurant is scheduled to plead guilty to tax evasion as part of a settlement deal that will see her serve jail time and reimburse the state for more than $1 million in unpaid sales tax.
Cynthia Brown, the proprietor of J’s Oyster Bar on Portland Pier, is set to plead guilty to five criminal counts including felony charges of tax evasion and theft by misapplication of sales tax, according to a plea agreement filed with the Cumberland County Superior Court.
J’s has been lauded by the likes of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and Gourmet Magazine, among others.
Regulators decided against slapping FairPoint Communications with hefty fines for repeatedly missing service quality benchmarks for its landline service, instead requiring the company to pay for specific network improvements.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday approved a settlement that will require FairPoint to spend $185,000 on landline network infrastructure in Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and the Washington County town of Perry.
All three areas had particularly high rates of problems.
It turns out just about anything.
The idea that philosophy majors aren’t prepared for professional careers “is a little bit of a myth, to be honest,” said Thomas Holden, chair of the philosophy department at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “Philosophy is not about sages sitting on mountaintops speculating about the cosmos.”
Graduates in philosophy inhabit Wall Street corner offices, roam the oak-paneled halls of the Supreme Court and reign over boardrooms in Silicon Valley.
Maine regulators Tuesday approved the sale of Bangor Gas parent company Gas Natural Inc. to a Cayman Island investment fund recently purchased by the New York investment firm Blackrock Inc.
In approving the deal, the Maine Public Utilities Commission found it would not impact Bangor Gas’ day-to-day operations or have a negative impact on customers. They added that it would give Bangor Gas access to investment dollars to expand service to new areas, make upgrades and replace outdated infrastructure.
Republicans, including President Donald Trump, are working overtime to kill the Affordable Care Act. Not just in Congress but also in the real world, where insurance companies are raising rates and slowly leaving the ACA. They aren’t raising rates or abandoning the ACA because it is unworkable or “a disaster,” as the president calls it.
They are doing so because there is too much uncertainty surrounding the health insurance market right now. Call it death of a 1,000 details negotiated in secret.
And once again, the big spenders in Augusta have hauled the shutdown bogeyman out of the storage closet to roam the halls of the Colosseum. This biennial ritual is meant to spook legislators into accepting a budget that grows government faster than Maine taxpayers’ ability to pay for it.
President Donald Trump has said some crazy things — things that a strongman from a dictatorship in the developing world might say, but not a U.S. president.
Among other things, he’s denigrated federal judges, challenged the independence of our intelligence agencies and described the media as “the enemy of the people.”
Trump’s surrogates have been no better. His chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, insisted that the media should “keep its mouth shut.” His son Eric Trump recently confessed that to him, Democrats are “not even people.”
These kinds of comments should be disturbing for anyone concerned about the vitality of American democracy.