Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.
The high today will be in the mid-70s, with an overcast sky and a chance for rain, heavy at times, throughout the day. Check your local forecast here.
National and international
The Trump family has offended many sectors of establishment Washington since their arrival in the nation’s capital, from Langley’s spymasters to mansion-dwellers in D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood.
But 30 miles north of the White House, a conflict is now brewing on the banks of the Potomac River that pits the president’s interests against those of a very different — if no less zealous — constituency. This one is armed with paddles.
Citing security concerns, the U.S. Coast Guard says it is adopting a policy of periodically cutting off access to roughly two miles of the Potomac where it borders Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.
The buffer zone is stoking intense concern and opposition among recreational users of the river, who range from Olympic athletes to injured soldiers. The proposed shore-to-shore security area includes Riley’s Lock, the embarkation point for a popular summer camp and a kayaking program for wounded and disabled veterans.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” said John Deitle, 41, a former marine who served a combined five tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and receives treatment at Walter Reed for lung problems he says are related to chemical exposure.
Two more Senate Republicans have declared their opposition to the latest plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system, potentially ending a months-long effort to make good on a GOP promise that has defined the party for nearly a decade and been a top priority for President Donald Trump.
Sens. Mike Lee, Utah, and Jerry Moran, Kan., issued statements declaring that they would not vote for the revamped measure. The sudden breaks by Lee, a staunch conservative, and Moran, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, rocked the GOP leadership and effectively closed what already had been an increasingly narrow path to passage for the bill.
They joined Sens. Rand Paul, Kentucky, and Susan Collins, Maine, who also oppose it. With just 52 seats, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes to pass their proposed rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. All 46 Democrats and two independents are expected to vote against it.
House Republicans unveiled a 2018 budget plan Tuesday that would pave the way for ambitious tax reform legislation — but only alongside a package of politically sensitive spending cuts that threaten to derail the tax rewrite before it begins.
GOP infighting over spending, health care and other matters continues to cast doubt on whether the budget blueprint can survive a House vote. Failing to pass a budget could complicate leaders’ plans to move on to their next governing priority as hopes of a health care overhaul appeared to collapse late Monday in the Senate.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he’d be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property.
“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture-especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks for a speech to the National District Attorney’s Association in Minneapolis. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”
Asset forfeiture is a highly controversial practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary.
Singer R. Kelly on Monday denied an article by U.S. media outlet BuzzFeed News that he was keeping a household of young women in a “cult” atmosphere.
“Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him. Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name,” Kelly’s attorney Linda Mensch said in a statement.
Kelly has not been charged with any crime.
The critters run through forest floors throughout the eastern United States, snatching up acorns and other tree seeds, berries and bugs.
White-footed mice — known for their wide eyes and ears, long tails and snow-white bellies and the feet from which they get their name — are often overlooked by humans, hiding out by the billions in U.S. forests, shrubby thickets and even wooded wetlands. But there’s one creature that knows them well: the tick.
Scientists say white-footed mice, which are primary carriers of the Lyme bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, are a highly popular host of black-legged ticks, which consequently makes them a key culprit in the spread of Lyme disease.
There was a break-in over the weekend at the Las Vegas office of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, a Republican senator who could be a critical swing vote on the GOP health care bill.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Department confirmed a break-in occurred Saturday morning at Heller’s office in southwest Las Vegas but did not give details, citing an ongoing investigation, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
A “threatening note” also was left at the office after the break-in, according to 8 News Now, based on an anonymous source. Las Vegas police would not confirm any information about a note to local media outlets.
Justine Damond called police after hearing a sound in an alley near the home she shared with her fiancé late Saturday night. But shortly after two officers arrived in her upscale Minneapolis neighborhood to investigate, the call turned deadly when one of the officers shot Damond.
It is unclear why the officer opened fire on Damond, a 40-year-old yoga and meditation teacher from Australia who was supposed to wed next month, and her death immediately drew renewed scrutiny of police officers in the Twin Cities area for their use of deadly force.
The University of Maine System has begun the process of finding a president who will lead both the system’s largest and smallest campuses.
The University of Maine System’s board of trustees on Monday approved an expanded 17-member search committee to find a replacement for University of Maine President Susan Hunter, who is expected to retire in June 2018.
There are well over $1 billion in bond proposals pending before the Maine Legislature, but only a fraction of that amount is likely to go before the voters for approval, as lawmakers are constrained by the budget and by politics.
The budget recently passed under the duress of a state shutdown includes enough money to support just $150 million a year in new bonds.
Maine schools have long said they need more money. One reason, educators say, is that they are taking on responsibilities they’ve never had before: providing extra food, medical services and even washers and dryers to clean students’ clothes. Schools in rural Maine need the most help, but often lack the tax base to pay for it.
The fire that gutted a Brewer bar late Thursday night was set intentionally, investigators believe.
The fire had “an intentional human element,” Sgt. Scott Richardson of the state fire marshal’s office said Monday. “What we do is eliminate all the possibilities and see what is left.”
One of Maine’s leading progressive legislators lambasted Attorney General Janet Mills on Friday for behind-the-scenes work against his prescription drug bill just days after she declared her run for governor.
That bill from Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, was carried over to next year after the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee decided to not include it last week in a package of bills that it agreed to fund on the Special Appropriations Table.
Living and events
The new Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport opened last month with the unveiling of 12 unique tents, designed by 12 different New England designers and stocked with bedding, mini fridges, bath amenities, heaters and fans.
For people who aren’t sure they’re ready for the rusticities of camping, this is a step in that direction. Sort of.
It’s “glamping” — or glamorous camping — in its finest form.
College of the Atlantic senior Ursa Beckford will host a screening of his film, “Something Good Will Come of This: A Maine Man’s Journey through the Opiate Epidemic,” at the Blue Hill Public Library at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19.
The film will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Ursa Beckford, and the subject of the film, Mike Bills.
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.
The Maine Lobster Festival is looking for volunteers to help with this year’s festival to be held Aug. 2-6. It takes more than 1,300 volunteers to run the festival each year.
Volunteer jobs include everything from setting up and taking down tents, to taking tickets, or cooking the lobsters served to guests. Volunteers will receive an exclusive “volunteer” shirt and free admission the day you volunteer.
If you wish to sign up, fill out an Online Volunteer Form from our website, mainelobsterfestival.com/
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.
Baxter Outdoors and Maine Huts & Trails are bringing back the Maine Huts & Trails Backwoods Duathlon 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Aug. 5. This 25 K mountain bike/trail run can be tackled either solo or as a team.
The Paris Hill Music Festival will kick off with Schooner Fare at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10, at First Baptist Church of Paris, 500 Paris Hill Road, South Paris. Tickets are $25 and available at Paris Hill Country Club and Bolster’s Decorating in Market Square and Books-n-Things in Norway or by calling 743-9390.
The owner of the Portland Press Herald and a chain of midcoast newspapers has reached a deal to buy the assets of the Lewiston Sun Journal and its affiliated papers for an undisclosed price.
The deal consolidates three printing operations, in Brunswick, South Portland and Lewiston, and a network of newspapers spanning southern, western and midcoast Maine under the ownership of Camden entrepreneur Reade Brower.
The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced a one-time increase of 15,000 additional visas for low-wage, seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year, a seeming about-face from President Trump’s “Hire American” rhetoric, following heavy lobbying from the fisheries, hospitality and other industries that rely on temporary foreign workers.
The head of Maine’s trade group for hotels and restaurants praised a federal decision to allow more foreign workers into the country, but said it’s too late for much of the industry to recover its losses.
Steve Hewins, head of the Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association, said the Trump Administration’s move “is definitely too late in the season for many business that will not be able to recover their earlier losses, but we are grateful that they finally heard our pleas and acted – even on this limited basis.”
For a governor who has been intent on standing in the way of meaningful progress in fighting the state’s opioid addiction epidemic, the change in thinking about naloxone represents progress. But it would be more encouraging if the governor’s change in thinking actually signaled a willingness to undertake a more aggressive state effort to combat opioid addiction based on the scientific evidence about what works in treatment.
Planning a trip to the beach, a lake, or some other spot in the great outdoors in the next month or so? Please take a few moments to thank a small but influential group of reformers, idealists, and busybodies who created an enduring American institution: the summer vacation.
Like the diligent journalist I am, I went online within minutes of the news that Donald Trump Jr. had put “incriminating” emails about his meeting with Russian lawyer and lobbyist Natalia Veselnitskaya on Twitter. I opened the Washington Post site and there, nestled between the paragraphs of their lead story on Trump Jr., was an ad for a box set of “The Walking Dead.” And I thought…
Well, actually, I thought that this stinks to high heaven, but it is still not the “smoking gun.” The dead will continue to walk around for a while yet.