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Updated: 12 hours 57 min ago

As DACA deadline looms, dozens of Maine residents face uncertainty

17 hours 52 min ago

The calls have been coming in at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Portland since September, but the answers are the same.

Nearly six months have passed since President Trump announced he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives work permits to young undocumented immigrants. The president said a permanent replacement for DACA would need to come from Congress, which has so far failed to pass one. The expiration date – March 5 – gets closer each day.

“We’re still hopeful that at some point Congress can come to a sensible solution,” ILAP Executive Director Sue Roche said.

Former President Obama created DACA in an executive order in 2012. The program does not offer a path to permanent legal residence, also called a green card, or citizenship. But it allows eligible immigrants to live and work in the United States with two-year, renewable work permits. Nationally, nearly 800,000 people have been approved for the program.

“They’ve moved on with their lives since they got work authorization,” Roche said. “They’re in college. They are in the military. They are working. Now, their futures are uncertain.”

Trump said Obama exceeded his authority by creating the program. Last week, three different deals that would have made DACA permanent failed in Congress, and lawmakers left for a weeklong recess with no solution.

The federal government planned to stop renewing work permits March 5, so the program would phase out as those authorizations expired. Two separate federal courts have blocked the president from ending DACA, so that March deadline might not stand. The Trump administration has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could announce as early as Tuesday if it will take up the case.

Meanwhile, dozens of Maine residents enrolled in DACA are facing uncertain futures.

“At the moment I feel very fearful,” said Christian Castaneda, 20, a University of Southern Maine sophomore enrolled in DACA.

Castaneda, who is studying business, hopes to run his own business and dreams about serving in the Marines, said there is no certainty in his life. He said it is a real possibility that he will be deported to El Salvador, where he was born. He has no memories of the country, which he left at age 4 with his parents and sister for a new life in Portland.

Last month, his parents learned the Trump administration was ending the protected status given to them in 2001, along with 200,000 other Salvadorans who were then living in the United States after earthquakes devastated their country. They will no longer be living and working in the United States legally after Sept. 9, 2019. Castaneda’s sister, who is also in DACA, faces being parted from her 6-year-old American daughter. Castaneda has several friends who are in similar situations.

“I don’t know what I can do,” Castaneda said Saturday.

Last month, he traveled twice to Washington to rally and to meet with three members of Maine’s congressional delegation: Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree.

“With everything going on, there really isn’t a clear message, so I can’t say what will happen. My life right now is up in the air,” Castaneda said.

Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show that at least 105 people in Maine have received initial approval for DACA to date. Also, an unknown number of people have registered in other states and are in Maine for college or work.

Beth Stickney, executive director of the Maine Business Immigrant Coalition, said she believes the number of DACA registrants living in Maine is closer to 200 or even 300.

Stickney said she does not know of people who are making plans to flee, in part because the process of winding down DACA and deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants would be a long one. But they are still facing the loss of work permits and jobs, military careers and professional licenses, mortgages and car loans. So right now, there isn’t much they can do except wait.

“People really are just focused on getting through the day and hoping that there will be better news tomorrow,” she said.

Stickney said she has also spoken with DACA recipients who are conflicted about the terms of a compromise that might come out of Congress. For example, a bill that saves DACA might come with new limits on family immigration.

“The other thing that comes into the equation, too, is DACA folks don’t want to feel like they will be the cause of some bad immigration policy,” Stickney said.

Sister Patricia Pora, longtime director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said many young immigrants are as worried for their parents as they are for themselves. The Trump administration is also ending protected status for Haitians living in the United States.

“It’s hard to know what to say,” Pora said. ” ‘We’re with you,’ is basically what we say. We’re trying to advocate for you. There’s a lot of people that are supporting you. But how much can you say?”


Intersection improvements designed to reduce crashes on Route 111

17 hours 52 min ago

Route 111’s reputation is well-earned.

Between 2012 and 2016, there were 109 vehicle crashes on just the 8-mile stretch of highway running through Arundel and Lyman. And those accidents aren’t just frequent, they’re also often violent.

“Every time I hear about a crash on Route 111, I get a knot in my stomach because I know it’s going to be a bad one,” said York County Sheriff Bill King.

And even more minor crashes that don’t involve injuries can tie up traffic for hours on the heavily traveled east-west road.

The Maine Department of Transportation is moving forward with a series of projects designed to address safety concerns along the busy corridor between Sanford and Biddeford. The Route 111 projects outlined in the department’s new three-year work plan focus primarily on improving intersections on the stretch of highway through Arundel and Lyman.

The next project, due to begin next year, will realign the intersection of Route 111, New Road and Old Alfred Road in Arundel that traffic officials and drivers say is confusing for people trying to pull on and off Route 111. There have been at least a dozen car crashes at that intersection since 2012.

The 14-mile, two-lane road, also known as the Carl Broggi Highway, is the major east-west corridor in central York County. The volume of traffic moving along the corridor between Biddeford and Sanford has increased steadily over the past two decades. On an average day, more than 17,000 cars travel west and more than 19,000 travel east, according to the Department of Transportation. That is expected to increase by several thousands cars a day by 2025.

The increased traffic volume may have contributed to crashes resulting from people following too closely or passing cars in an unsafe manner, according to traffic officials. At certain times of day, the glare of the sun can be blinding to drivers.

The most recent serious accident took place Jan. 21, when Kerry Kiernan, 45, of Sanford crossed the centerline of Route 111 in Arundel and struck a car traveling in the opposite direction. She died at the scene. Route 111 shut down for about eight hours.

Last year, Ernie Martin learned about local concerns when the senior project manager with the Department of Transportation held a heavily attended public meeting about a proposed Route 111 project.

“People were more concerned about getting into traffic,” he said. “They say they’re taking their life into their hands and that they watch in their rear-view mirrors and hope people don’t rear-end them.”


Sen. Ron Collins, who represents multiple towns in southern coastal York County and co-chairs the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, said legislators from the area have been working with MDOT to figure out how to make the road safer.

“Going west on Route 111 from Biddeford Crossing, there’s a lot of concern about roads intersecting (Route 111) and the safety of them,” Collins said. “A lot of folks here in Augusta realize the importance of making these improvements to Route 111.”

Route 111, also known as Alfred Road, begins at the intersection of Routes 202 and 4 in Alfred and travels east to Biddeford, where it becomes Alfred Street. In Biddeford, the road travels past the Maine Turnpike interchange, Southern Maine Medical Center and a series of shopping centers.

The stretch from Arundel to Alfred is more rural, with only a handful of businesses and few intersections with traffic lights.

Traffic west of the turnpike exit in Biddeford nearly doubled from 12,960 cars a day in 1992 to nearly 25,000 cars in 2002, largely due to the addition of a Super Walmart and the Home Depot shopping plaza. Since then, the Biddeford Crossing development brought other large stores like Target and Market Basket, adding to the number of cars traveling in the area.

But traffic west of Biddeford has also increased in the past decade as more houses are built in rural communities and people commute daily to the Maine Turnpike from interior York County. King, the sheriff, said he expects traffic to increase even more when a new courthouse is built in Biddeford and inmates from the York County Jail in Alfred are transported by bus for court appearances.

In 2003, the Department of Transportation released a Route 111 corridor study that identified high crash rates along the road and suggested adding turning lanes.

At the time, the department added multiple signs asking drivers to turn on their headlights, added intersection warning signs and trimmed branches and brush to improve sight lines.


The corridor study suggested improvements at both the Hill Road and New Road/Old Alfred Road intersections. Hill Road, which people use as a shortcut to Route 35, was identified at the time as a medium priority and traffic officials suggested adjustments to lanes could help reduce collisions, motorist delays and frustration from drivers who had trouble turning onto Route 111.

Between 2012 and 2016, there were 109 vehicle crashes on Route 111 in Arundel and Lyman, according to the Department of Transportation. Of the 58 crashes in Arundel, 25 crashes were at the intersection with Hill Road, where a traffic light was added in 2016.

During that same time period, 12 crashes were reported at the intersection with New and Old Alfred roads.

Rep. Wayne Parry, a Republican who sits on the Transportation Committee, lives a mile away from the intersection and travels through it often. He hasn’t been in an accident there, but he said it’s a near-miss every time he drives through.

“It’s not too bad if you’re driving on Route 111. If you’re coming off of New Road or Old Alfred Road, it’s a real problem,” he said. “It’s really hard to pull out.”

The existing geometry of New Road and Old Alfred Road at the intersection with Route 111 is a major contributor to safety problems and causes confusion over who has the right of way and uncertainty about what movements other drivers are making, according to the Department of Transportation. Traffic officials say the project should significantly improve the overall safety of the section of Route 111 and reduce driver frustration.

“When you look at that intersection from above, it looks like a ‘K,’ ” Martin said. “It can be very confusing.”

To fix the intersection and Route 111 in Arundel, the MDOT plans to spend about $4.2 million. The project will relocate an auto business and realign Old Alfred Road so it empties onto New Road instead of Route 111. The southbound shoulder of New Road will be widened to allow for the bypassing of vehicles turning left onto Old Alfred Road.

On Route 111, the center lane will be marked as a left-turn only lane near the relocated intersection.

At the same time, the Department of Transportation will add a truck climbing lane for vehicles that go slowly up the hill in that area, Martin said.

Martin expects construction of the work to begin in spring 2019.

“The department has heard loud and clear that it’s not about getting people from point A to point B faster, but through these intersections more safely,” Martin said.

Arundel Town Manager Keith Trefethen said locals remain concerned about the intersection because the Department of Transportation’s plan doesn’t include a traffic signal. Trefethen and town selectmen sent a letter to the department asking for one to be included in the final design.

“Trying to take that turn without a signal is nearly impossible at some parts of the day,” he said. “We want them to reconsider not having a light there.”

Parry has also asked the Department of Transportation to include a traffic signal when the intersection is reconfigured.

“I mention every time I can about the importance of having the light there,” he said. “It’s going to be a real necessity.”

Martin said traffic engineers are still discussing if a traffic signal is warranted at the intersection.

The department’s three-year work plan also includes paving Route 111 for 10 miles starting at the Biddeford city line and other improvements along the stretch of road through Lyman and Alfred.


Portland police propose rules for body camera use

17 hours 52 min ago

Portland police have proposed a detailed policy to govern the use of body cameras, a step that advocates say can improve relations between officers and the community but one that also has raised privacy concerns in cities around the country.

The Portland Police Department’s eight-page policy proposal, which will be taken up by a City Council committee Wednesday, says officers equipped with cameras will be required to record virtually all enforcement actions, including traffic stops, field interviews, use of force, investigative stops, searches, detentions or arrests. But it also says officers can stop recording under certain circumstances to protect the privacy of crime victims or others, and that recordings shall not be used to “gather intelligence” during legal assemblies such as political protests.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who declined through a city spokeswoman to be interviewed, will formally present the policy to the City Council.

The policy is a key remaining step toward Portland’s long-planned implementation of body cameras by the police force.

The city expects to conduct community outreach throughout February and March and launch the pilot program in the spring, according to a timeline given to councilors. Full implementation would follow in the fall.

While the use of body cameras is intended to enhance transparency and accountability, the city would not say if community groups have had a chance to give feedback, as the city said would happen, or if the policy will need the approval of the council.

Body cameras have been debated nationally since several high-profile instances in which police officers shot and killed people of color. The debate was brought to Portland last year, after police shot and killed 22-year-old Chance David Baker at a St. John Street shopping center.


Last year, South Portland became the first department in Greater Portland to implement the technology, although at least seven other communities elsewhere in Maine use body cameras.

After originally declining to reveal its guidelines for use, the South Portland Police Department released its policy in full.

Portland’s policy establishes a detailed set of rules and procedures about when officers are required to record their activities and when they can stop recording. It also lays out rules for accessing footage and how that footage may be used in employee evaluations and citizen complaints.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which pressed Portland to adopt body cameras, declined to comment on the specifics of the policy but said there is room for improvement.

“We want to see a policy that protects privacy, promotes police transparency and accountability, and includes clear guidelines for when cameras should be on or off,” ACLU of Maine spokeswoman Rachel Healy said in an email. “The current proposal is headed in the right direction, but there is room for improvement. We hope to work with the police department to ensure the final policy maximizes the benefits of body cameras and minimizes their potential harms.”

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said last week he would review the policy over the weekend. But he said his initial read was that the department did a good job balancing a community desire for the cameras to be used broadly, while also addressing First Amendment concerns.

“It looks like they were taking a deep dive to make sure they came forward with something really substantial,” Strimling said. “I want to hear more about how we’re going to enforce this.”

Portland’s policy requires the department to retain recordings for 210 days, unless a recording is flagged for extended retention for a potential civil claim, lawsuit or personnel complaint.

The public can gain access to those recordings under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and “other applicable laws.”

According to the policy, officers will be required to record all enforcement actions, including traffic stops, field interviews, use of force, investigative stops, searches, detentions or arrests.

That rule has an exception: “When an immediate threat to the officer’s life or safety makes activating the camera impossible or dangerous, the officer shall activate the camera at the first reasonable opportunity to do so.”

Then, officers can only stop recording under certain circumstances, such as at the request of a crime victim after the scene is secured, or at the request of a person with a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” including when an officer is in a residence for an nonemergency or lacks a warrant. A recording may also be stopped to protect the identity of a confidential informant.

Officers must document the reasons for stopping a video.

Special rules also apply to using cameras on school grounds, at health care facilities and at constitutionally protected assemblies, where officers might be conducting crowd control, escorts or are called for service.

“Facilitating the First Amendment rights of individuals is one of our primary law enforcement purposes,” the policy states. “These recordings shall not be used to gather intelligence or to identify individual participants not engaged in unlawful conduct.”

The policy reveals that the cameras record video even when they are not activated. Officers may request a video after an incident, but that video will not contain any audio.

The policy also accounts for scenarios where police officers have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including in offices, restrooms and locker rooms.

It also includes nine types of prohibited recording, including during the administration of an Intoxilyzer test “due to the possibility of radio frequency interference.”


Officers may not take pictures or videos of the recordings and post them to social media without permission.

Special protocols are also proposed for deadly force incidents and other serious crimes.

“If a deadly force incident occurs, a supervisor shall take custody of all involved (cameras) and transfer them directly to Internal Affairs for download. The supervisor shall document the collection and transfer of the (cameras) in a supplemental report.”

“In the case of a serious crime, (cameras) may be collected and downloaded by an Evidence Technician at the direction of the (Criminal Investigation Division) Lieutenant or Shift Commander.”

Police body cameras became a point of contention in Portland last year, after Portland police Sgt. Nicholas Goodman shot and killed Baker at the Union Station Plaza.

Police had responded to a report of a man who appeared to be intoxicated brandishing a rifle in broad daylight. Police said Goodman shot and killed Baker after he refused to comply with orders. The weapon was later determined to be a rifle-style pellet gun.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Strimling, the ACLU of Maine and the Portland branch of the NAACP called on the city to begin equipping Portland police with body cameras.

City officials secured $26,000 in grant funds from the Department of Justice last April to purchase eight cameras for a pilot program. That initial funding was expected to be followed by a $400,000 investment in the technology in the next budget.

In November, the City Council approved a new three-year contract with the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing 125 officers and detectives, and the Police Superior Officers Benevolent Association, representing 32 lieutenants and sergeants, to begin working on a plan to roll out the cameras.

Advocates say body cameras make police more respectful in their interactions with the public and can help fill in the gaps in the investigation of certain incidents.

A study of the effects of body cameras on police behavior in Las Vegas showed that the technology reduced the number of officers who had at least one complaint filed against them by 30 percent. Use-of-force incidents also dropped by 37 percent.


The number of complaints filed against Portland police from outside the department has varied over the years.

According to a draft annual report by the Portland’s Police Citizens Review Subcommittee, 14 formal complaints were lodged against Portland police officers from outside of the department in 2016. Those complaints contained 37 allegations, including 10 dealing with use of force, six for unlawful arrest or detention and four for an officer’s conduct toward the public.

In two of the cases from 2016, a complaint about an officer’s conduct toward the public and a complaint about an officer’s personal behavior were “sustained,” according to the review committee report.

City officials said the 2016 report is only a draft and still needs to be approved by the subcommittee when it meets again in March. Figures for 2017 were not available.



17 hours 52 min ago

Southern Maine Health Care

Paul Gerard Allain II, born Feb. 3 to Stephen and Karen (Salvilla) Allain of Sanford. Grandparents are Mercidita Salvilla of La Castilla, Philippines, Delcia Allain of Sanford and the late Paul Gerard Allain.

Carter Davis Campbell, born Feb. 6 to Michael Campbell and Alisha Romano of Sanford. Grandparents are Anthony and Holly Romano of Sanford, Michael Campbell of South Berwick and Linda Brownell of Alton, New Hampshire.

Tatum Rae Noble, born Feb. 6 to Dylan MacDonald and Emma Noble of Kennebunk. Grandparents are Renn and Andrea Noble of Kennebunk and Sean Sweeney and Kerri MacDonald, both of Lyman.

Brystol Faye Wheeler, born Feb. 6 to Donald Wheeler Jr. and Alysha Nevells of Standish. Grandparents are Michael and Geraldine Nevells of Limington and Donald Wheeler Sr. of Saybrook, Connecticut.

Theodore Raymond Rousseau, born Feb. 7 to Eric and Kendra (Belanger) Rousseau of Lyman. Grandparents are Bonita Potnier and Donald and Linda Rousseau, both of Biddeford.

Belle Rose Norris, born Feb. 8 to Trey Norris and Samantha Ames of Parsonsfield. Grandparents are Sidney Ames III and Mary Lovejoy of Biddeford, and Robert Norris and Sarah Albert of Limerick.

Addisyn Grace Bodwell, born Feb. 10 to Tanner Bodwell and Jaime Lagasse of Sanford. Grandparents are Mary Wakefield and Tammy Lagasse, both of Sanford, and Brian and DoraLee Buck of West Newfield.


17 hours 52 min ago


Code enforcement officers hold new walk-in hours

The Old Orchard Beach Planning and Code Enforcement Office has designated new hours during which a code enforcement officer will be available to consult with the public on a drop-in, unscheduled basis.

The walk-in hours are 8 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. All other meetings with code enforcement officers must be by appointment.

For more details, call 934-5714, ext. 1545 or 1533.


Donation of $4,500 funds college tech scholarships

A gift of more than $4,500 from the North East Regional Association of Housing Maintenance Supervisors to The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges will provide scholarships for students enrolled in construction technology programs at Maine’s community colleges this academic year.

The association works to develop training programs for subsidized housing maintenance supervisors and maintenance personnel, and to provide high-quality maintenance services for all residents of subsidized housing within the North East Regional area.

For more information, go to nerahms.org.

High schoolers compete in Boston music festival

Students from South Portland High School recently competed in the 50th Berklee High School Jazz Festival, hosted by the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

South Portland competed against more than 200 bands featuring nearly 3,000 students from 13 states.

South Portland’s Max Saffer Meng was recognized for outstanding musicianship.


Caring Unlimited seeking volunteers for crisis hotline

On March 6, Caring Unlimited will begin training new hotline advocates to provide free on-call support for a domestic violence hotline.

Hotline volunteers will be trained to listen to callers and offer them support and access to safety planning services, available 24 hours a day to men, women and children affected by domestic abuse.

The 44-hour training will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays for six weeks at Caring Unlimited’s Sanford Resource Center.

Upon completion of the training, volunteers select shifts and work from home.

To learn more or to apply to join, go to www.caring-unlimited.org or call Betsy at 207-490-3227, ext. 102.


Dayton school takes gold in Olympics-inspired event

Dayton Consolidated School has won the gold in the first WinterKids Winter Games, receiving $5,000.

Mere percentage points separated the silver and bronze winners, with Waldo T. Skillin Elementary School in South Portland winning $3,000 and Miles Lane School in Bucksport winning $1,500.

Students from 16 elementary schools competed in January, ahead of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Student athletes participated in a four-week series of outdoor physical activity and nutrition challenges, designed to help them be active and healthy.

The games engaged 4,200 kids and 240 teachers statewide.

For more details, visit https://www.winterkids.org/teachers-and-schools/winterkids-winter-games.

Parishes raise $15,000 in Souper Bowl of Caring

Maine Catholic youth ministry groups, at parishes throughout the diocese, raised nearly $15,000 for soup kitchens, food banks and food pantries during Super Bowl weekend.

The youths held soup pots to collect monetary and food donations from parishioners as they left weekend Mass to benefit the Souper Bowl of Caring.

Realtors donate $13,458 to help build 13 homes

The Greater Portland Board of Realtors recently presented Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland with a $13,458 check to help build a 13-home community of energy-efficient homes in Scarborough.

UNE dental student earns $5,000 Appleby scholarship

Poland High School graduate Brittney Bell has received a 2017 Alva S. Appleby scholarship from the Maine Dental Association Charitable Foundation.

Bell, who attends the University of New England College of Dental Medicine, was one of five students selected to receive the award. Each received $5,000.

Bell received her bachelor’s degree from Colby College.

She is the daughter of Nancy Bell of Poland.


Brunswick student’s art will display at U.S. Capitol

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree has announced that Galen Gaze of Brunswick won the 2018 Congressional Art Competition for Maine’s 1st District.

Gaze, 18, a senior at Brunswick High School, took top honors for her illustration, titled “Toucanana.” Another of Gaze’s illustrations,”Innocence Is Bliss,” earned an honorable mention.

The judges also recognized the work of four other 1st District students: first runner-up Benjamin Folsom of Falmouth High School, second runner-up Rachel Walton of Yarmouth High School, and honorable mentions Corilie Green of Freeport High School and Chelsea Zhao of Falmouth High School.

Gaze’s winning work will be on display at the U.S. Capitol for a year.


Teachers awarded grants to benefit student learning

The Biddeford Education Foundation’s board of directors has awarded five teacher grants totaling $3,284.

The grant recipients include: n Christine Duncan of John F Kennedy Memorial School, to create a fine-motor center for youths to work with materials that will strengthen the muscles in their hands

 Kerri Lesieur of Biddeford Primary School, to provide materials for students to work within a learning progression

Chelsea Cardner of Biddeford Intermediate School, to offer a website that includes interactive videos

 Liz Ames of Biddeford Middle School, for art students to make relief-sculpture tiles that will be featured at the Biddeford Food Pantry

 Heidi Haufe of Biddeford High School, to support the writing of immigrant student autobiographies.

For more details or to make a gift, visit biddefordschools.me or call Karen Chasse at 391-6885.

Southern Maine Health Care nurse earns Daisy Award

Rose Marie Labrie, a nurse in Southern Maine Health Care’s special care unit, has been honored with the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses. Labrie was nominated for her “clinical skill and compassionate care.”

High schooler’s academics, citizenship merits award

Biddeford High School senior Aaron Dutremble is the winner of the 2018 Maine Principals’ Association Principal’s Award. The award is given annually to a senior from each high school who excels in academic achievement and citizenship.

He has a 3.39 grade-point average and attends the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology. He plays soccer, and indoor and outdoor track. He will study secondary education at Bridgewater State this fall.


Habitat for Humanity gets $10,000 for energy services

Habitat for Humanity of York County has received a grant of $10,000 from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation for the countywide weatherization program “Keep York County Warm!”

The weatherization services have a direct impact on income-eligible families and older adults by reducing their heating and cooling costs, and improving their health and safety. The addition of energy-efficiency measures also helps preserve the homes at no cost to the families

Those interested in participating or donating may call the Habitat for Humanity of York County office at 985-4850 or visit www.habitatyorkcounty.org.

Community meals

17 hours 52 min ago


Free community breakfast, including eggs, bacon, pancakes and pastries. 6:30 to 9 a.m. Chestnut Street Baptist Church, 29 Chestnut St., Camden. 542-0360.


Free meal, Trinity Lutheran Church. 5 to 6 p.m. Westbrook Community Center, 426 Bridge St. 854-5653.


Free community meal, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 678 Washington Ave.


Haddock chowder and lobster roll luncheon, featuring egg salad and chicken salad sandwiches. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. North Deering Congregational Church, 1364 Washington Ave. A la carte and combo prices range from $5 to $13. Fresh bread for $2. 797-2487.


Public bean supper, featuring three kinds of baked beans, and homemade pickles and relishes. 5 to 6 p.m. West Falmouth Baptist Church, 18 Mountain Road, Falmouth. $8, $4 for ages 5-12, free for ages 4 and under. 797-4066.

Potluck supper, 5 p.m. North Belgrade Community Center, 508 Smithfield Road, Belgrade. Free. 465-7874.

Baked bean supper, with assorted casseroles and salads, coleslaw, chop suey, rolls, pies and beverages. 5 to 6:30 p.m. New Sharon United Methodist Church, 18 Starks Road, New Sharon. $8, $3.50 for children 12 and younger.

Baked bean supper, with assorted casseroles, salads, homemade breads and desserts. 5 p.m. Gray Congregational Church, Route 115, Gray. $8, $4 for ages 12 and younger. Handicapped-accessible. 657-3279.

Baked bean and casserole supper, 5 p.m. Centenary United Methodist Church, 113 Doctor Mann Road, Skowhegan. $8. 474-3915.


17 hours 52 min ago


Library holds film screening, book signing, art reception

Carrabassett Valley Public Library will offer the following programs this week, all beginning at 4:30 p.m., at 3209 Carrabassett Dr. No. 3.

On Wednesday there will be a screening of the film “Defoe’s Way.”

Also on Wednesday, the library will offer a book signing with John and Cynthia Orcutt, authors of “Enduring Heights.”

On Saturday there will be an artist reception for the opening of the Joe Gambino art exhibition at the Begain Family Community Room. Wine and cheese will be served.

For details, call 237-3535.


Presidents Day event a tribute to Washington

Cabin Fever Reliever Living History Day will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to celebrate Presidents Day 1870-style. The event takes place at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center, 290 Norlands Road.

The event will include horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice-cutting demonstrations, craft activities, a one-room schoolhouse, mansion tours and interpreters in period clothing.

Interpreters Shelly Cox and Jeanette MacDonald, portraying the Washburns’ 19th-century neighbors, will bake a version of Martha Washington’s cake and pay tribute to Washington with poems and songs at 12:30 p.m. and at 2:30 p.m.

Hot chocolate will be available in the farmers’ cottage.

Admission is $10 adults, $6 for ages 12 and under. Norlands members receive a 20 percent discount on admission.

For details, call 897-4366 or got to www.norlands.org.


‘Fishing Alaska on a Budget’ talk features Maine guide

The Sebago chapter of Trout Unlimited will feature the talk “Fishing Alaska on a Budget” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Camp Ketcha, 336 Black Point Road.

Registered Maine Guide and longtime Sebago member Dan Bonville will give the talk. He has fished throughout Alaska and will share what he has learned.

Sebago Trout Unlimited meetings are free and open to the public. For more details, email mstreeter212@gmail.com.


Come for the garden talk, stay for the bluebird houses

Osewantha Garden Club members will meet at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the South Portland Community Center, 21 Nelson Road.

Following a business meeting, honorary member Bob Oliver will help members build bluebird houses.


Children’s ice fishing derby offers free traps, lessons

The Range Pond State Park children’s ice fishing derby will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at 26 State Park Road.

The contest is open to all ages, with a $1.50 fee for ages 13 to 64, and free for all others. Ice fishing traps will be given to the first 500 registered children, ages 12 and younger, who arrive before 10 a.m. and to the first 100 Special Olympics entrants, compliments of Kittery Trading Post.

Door prizes, raffles and free pointers on ice fishing are available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Water district employees offer 3-mile snowshoe trek

Portland Water District staff will offer an educational snowshoe trek through a portion of the Sebago Lake Land Reserve and right onto Sebago Lake, safe ice conditions permitting, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

The roughly 3-mile trek is moderate, dependent upon new snowfall, and features gradual gentle inclines. Participants should bring their own gear. Limited pairs of snowshoes are available upon request.

This event is subject to weather conditions. Register by Thursday at www.pwd.org/water-connections or call 774-5961, ext. 3320.

Military notes

17 hours 52 min ago

Air Force Airman Sierra A. Wisinski has graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, Texas, following an intensive eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies and Air Force core values.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

A 2017 graduate of Mars Area High School in Valencia, Pennsylvania, Wisinski is the daughter of Staci Berube of Westbrook, granddaughter of Glenda Berube of Houlton, niece of Dave Berube of Fort Kent and Dominic Berube of Westbrook, and the sister of Christopher Wisinski and Morgan Wisinski.

South Portland council considering Cottage Road improvements

February 18, 2018 - 10:06pm

SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council is considering recommendations to limit speeding and reduce danger to pedestrians on Cottage Road.

The estimated costs of projects to curb speeding range from $34,000 for one flashing beacon, to $1.8 million for a comprehensive upgrade, including raised medians, realignment of Pillsbury Street, and flashing pedestrian beacons.

“This is a public safety issue we can’t ignore,” Councilor Claude Morgan said during a meeting last week.

City Planning Director Tex Haeuser said “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was the rezoning last October in the creation of the Meetinghouse Hill Community District.

The zone was changed to a residential and commercial mixed-use area; with that, an influx of activity and traffic is expected.

At a council workshop last week, Haeuser presented the findings and recommendations of a safety improvements committee that was tasked with generating solutions.

Haeuser said the preferred solution is a $900,000 project that would be funded by grants to the city from the Maine Department of Transportation. This proposal would include the installation of three rapid-beacon, pedestrian-activated signs; realigning Pillsbury Street; and painting parking spots along Cottage Road. The work could begin as early as this summer.

Haeuser said the project needs additional engineering consultation before construction plans would go to bid.

The area eyed for improvement runs from Mitchell Road to the Cape Elizabeth line. In the last several years, one pedestrian death occurred in the area, as well as other pedestrian and vehicle accidents.

Councilor Kate Lewis said many children and families are affected by problems crossing the street, since it is a busy section of the city with several schools and parks.

“I’m in favor of implementing as many safety measures as we can as soon as possible, but I want the plan to be refined,” Lewis said.

Committee member Rosemarie DeAngelis said the highest crash rate in the city is at the intersection of Cottage Road and Pillsbury Street.

Councilors said the plan should be more focused, but all voiced support for improving safety and several said they are partial in particular to including bump-outs that would narrow Cottage Road.

During a test of plastic bollards last December, pedestrians reported to the city that they felt safer crossing the street, although the fire chief and some drivers complained the measures made the street too narrow.

DeAngelis said narrowing the street is an effective way to reduce speeds. Reducing the limit from 30 to 25 mph is also an option, but DeAngelis said without police enforcement, that would likely not have a great impact.

The plans will come before the council again at a later date.

Juliette Laaka can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 106, or at:


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Five Portland fire stations need rebuilding, consultant says

February 18, 2018 - 10:03pm

Five of Portland’s seven mainland fire stations need to be replaced, according to a consultant’s report presented to Portland city councilors last week.

The report, “Functional Assessment of Fire Station Locations,” was completed for the Fire Department last October by Facets Consulting of Flagstaff, Arizona. It said the stations are properly placed to meet the city’s needs and to keep response times well within an eight-minute standard, but it concluded that the buildings have problems and should be replaced.

Portland’s Engine 11 station on Ocean Avenue, which was built in 1956, has “a significant slab-settling problem in the dorm room area,” the consultant said, and is most in need of replacement. Also on the list is the Central Station, a 93-year-old building at 380 Congress St. that has bay doors barely wide enough for modern trucks and rescue units.

The report was presented to the City Council’s Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee last week as the city prepares to renovate the North Deering Fire Station at 380 Allen Ave. A kitchen fire in September 2017 closed the station. Its units were shifted to Ocean Avenue and the Riverton station at 1592 Forest Ave.

“Our goal is to be back in there by summer,” Fire Chief David Jackson said. “A lot of what we do at Allen Avenue will be considered the new standard. We will bring it up to the needs of the service today and bring it up to code.”

Jackson said much of the new report was not a surprise – it detailed aging fire stations and recommended expanded staffing. Most important, he said, is that it confirmed that the department has stations in all the right places to serve the city.

The city does not have a schedule or cost estimate for replacing other stations. City Manager Jon Jennings said study findings will be considered in his upcoming budget and as he and Jackson map out the department’s future. They are also working on a five-year plan to begin defining the needs and when they can be met.

“We have to take investing in our fire stations seriously,” Jennings said. “We are not looking to close any stations. We are looking to rebuild them.”

The consultant said more study is needed on how and when stations should be replaced, and offered no cost estimates. It did say 50 years should be considered the life expectancy of a fire station.

The last new station built in the city is on Munjoy Hill at 134 Congress St. It is 41 years old. The remaining mainland stations are at least 50 years old.

Not only are the buildings in need of updates to meet current codes and energy-efficiency standards, but they are often outmoded in terms of firefighting strategies, and have a lack of practical accommodations for women now serving as firefighters, the report said.

Jackson said fire stations need better living accommodations than bunkrooms designed only for men, and better restrooms. Individual bedrooms would allow firefighters a space to decompress after responding to emergencies, he said.

The report also recommends splitting the city into two coverage zones while adding a new on-duty chief officer for the second zone. Existing companies would also be better served with three firefighters instead of two on duty at each station, the report suggests. It has not been determined if and how the department could meet the staffing recommendations.

The $28,000 study was launched in March 2017 and included site visits and meetings with staff, as well as the data collection.

David Harry can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 110 or at:


Twitter: DavidHarry8

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Union College says it found strand of George Washington’s hair

February 18, 2018 - 9:46pm

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Tucked in the pages of a grimy, leather-bound almanac in the archives at New York’s Union College was a tiny envelope with the hand-scrawled words “Washington’s hair.”

A librarian who had been cataloging old books gingerly opened the yellowed envelope to find a lock of silvery hair tied with a thread.

“It was one of those mind-blowing moments that happen every once in a while in a librarian’s life,” said John Myers, a catalog and metadata librarian at the college. “I thought, that doesn’t mean George Washington, does it?”

It apparently does.

While college officials can’t say for sure it’s the real deal, the historical evidence is there. The hair was discovered in a pocket-sized almanac for the year 1793 that belonged to Philip J. Schuyler, son of General Philip Schuyler, who served under Washington during the Revolutionary War and founded Union College in 1795.

Susan Holloway Scott, an independent scholar and author, said locks of hair were frequently given as gifts during Washington’s day and it’s likely Martha Washington gave the snip of her husband’s hair to Eliza Schuyler, daughter of the general and wife of Alexander Hamilton.

Eliza passed it on to her son, James A. Hamilton, as noted by the handwriting on the envelope: “from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”

A prominent collector of celebrity hair believes it’s truly a relic of the nation’s first president.

“There’s no doubt in my mind it’s genuine,” said John Reznikoff, founder of University Archives in Westport, Connecticut. And Reznikoff knows hair. His personal collection of 150 locks includes a brain-speckled strand plucked from Abraham Lincoln’s fatal wound, a voodoo charm made from Jimi Hendrix’s hair and sartorial samples from Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Napoleon, Marilyn Monroe and, of course, George Washington.

India Spartz, head of special collections and archives at Union, called the hair “a very significant treasure” that will eventually be displayed at the liberal arts college.

Union has no plans to put the hair through DNA testing, in part because it could destroy part of the lock.

Reznikoff said hair locks are typically authenticated through examination of associated artifacts and historical connections rather than by DNA testing because genetic tests aren’t always reliable without the hair’s root attached and the possible contamination of DNA from multiple people who likely handled the hair.

“Most hair locks stand or fail on the basis of written provenance,” Reznikoff said. “So one needs really to consult with document experts rather than scientists.”

For librarian Myers, he’s still coming to grips with what he found during an otherwise mundane December day.

“It’s not nearly as significant as finding some obscure medieval manuscript from some important author,” he said. “But in the context of a small upstate college, this is, like wow! Kind of exciting!”

Harpswell to ask voter approval for browntail moth research

February 18, 2018 - 9:28pm

HARPSWELL — As spring approaches, voters will have the opportunity to approve new research on the local browntail moth population.

According to a draft warrant article for the March 10 town meeting, voters will decide whether to allocate just over $9,500 for the University of Maine to conduct studies on browntail moths, and ways to naturally reduce their number in Harpswell.

The vote follows a special Board of Selectmen meeting last November with University of Maine entemology Professor Eleanor Groden, director of the university’s Browntail Moth Research Project. The program is conducted in collaboration with the Maine Forest Service, and aims to pinpoint the cause of the insect’s spread throughout Maine and eco-friendly ways to fight it.

The infestation has become an annual nuisance and health threat in the midcoast and coastal southern Maine. Hairs from browntail moth caterpillars can cause allergic reactions in some people, ranging from rashes to serious respiratory problems, which has made their regional surge in recent years problematic.

Communities throughout the region are seeking ways to contain the infestations, including with pesticide spraying that sometimes raises environmental and public health concerns.

If the warrant article passes, Groden and her students will conduct a year of work in Harpswell, taking samples of moth nests, testing different eco-friendly pest control techniques, and composing a report to the town.

Harpswell’s pesticide ordinance, which was revised in March 2016, prohibits spraying within 25 feet of the shoreline to protect marine life. Aerial spraying of chemicals is also banned.

As a result, Mary Ann Nahf, chairwoman of the town’s Conservation Commission, instructs residents to clip browntail nests from trees in the winter and dunk them in soapy water to prevent springtime hatching.

Nahf said an increasing number of town residents in recent years have reached out to the commission regarding what to do about moth nests. In addition to the clipping and soaking method, homeowners can also hire licensed applicators to inject trees on their property with pesticides.

Stem injection, however, is only allowed in Harpswell with a waiver, which requires a town hearing to be granted.

At the selectmen’s Feb. 8 meeting, Nahf voiced the group’s support of the research.

For many people in Harpswell, she said, treating nests independently within the parameters of the pesticide ordinance is not ideal.

“The problem is, those remedies are either prohibitively expensive for many of our residents – stem injection, for example – or practically impossible, (like) clipping in mid-winter because so many of the nests are too high to reach safely,” she said.

If voters approve the funds, Groden will travel to Harpswell in late March to evaluate the density of moth populations at different sites. The researchers will take samples from webs at each site back to the university lab in Orono, set them up to allow caterpillar emergence, and examine them to determine survival over the winter, parasitism and disease level. They will also return to Harpswell to monitor caterpillar emergence and feeding activity at each of the designated sites.

In mid-May, the team will conduct field trials to evaluate the efficiency of at least three organically certified and biorational options for caterpillar control with a licensed pesticide applicator.

The team would ultimately assess the impact of the treatments on the browntail population and their natural enemies, collect pupation nests and monitor them in the lab, and revisit the treatment sites to monitor the presence of winter webs in February 2019.

“Widespread spraying has been tried in the past and has resulted in killing of marine life, (which is) not a good option for our community,” Nahf said in support of the study. “We need to better understand the geographic distribution and severity of the infestation throughout Harpswell and hopefully develop new remedies to address the problem.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Good news for Portland drivers – potholes about to be fixed

February 18, 2018 - 8:56pm

The city of Portland tweeted a reassuring notice to motorists this weekend – it’s aware that potholes are plaguing drivers this winter and a major project will begin this week to fix the problem.

City officials said four areas will undergo pothole repairs on Tuesday and Thursday: Warren Avenue at the Maine Turnpike overpass, on Riverside Street near its intersection with Washington Avenue, on Stevens Avenue near Forest Avenue, and on Forest Avenue between Stevens Avenue and Walton Street.

The city also posted a notification on its website that the Portland Public Works Department has hired Coastal Road Repair LLC to repair potholes over the course of the next four weeks.

Pothole repairs will occur between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Traffic flow will be maintained through the work zones, but motorists should expect brief delays.

The repair schedule and locations will be updated weekly and may need to be changed in response to inclement weather conditions.

“Thank you for your patience as we deal with an extreme pothole season due to the weather,” the city said in a message posted on its website.

The website is also promoting a customer service tool – called “Fix It! Portland” – for reporting potholes and other problems affecting Portlanders’ quality of life.

Residents can download the “Fix It! Portland” mobile app for their smartphone via the Apple or Android App store. The app can be used for a variety of reporting purposes, including potholes and broken streetlights.

Residents may also fill out an online reporting form by visiting the city’s website and searching for the “Fix It! Portland” link.

Citizens who report quality-of-life issues will receive an automated response. Issues will be addressed based on priorities and budget availability.


NYC official leads effort to locate missing persons via DNA samples

February 18, 2018 - 8:54pm

NEW YORK — For families who have searched years for missing loved ones, donating a sample of their DNA is often a last, desperate act to confirm their worst fears.

New York City’s medical examiner is leading a nationwide effort to collect genetic material and match it with unidentified human remains. It’s a way to finally give family members some answers and maybe some solace.

“People will not rest without answers, at least some answers,” said Dr. Barbara Sampson, the city’s chief medical examiner.

Over the last decade, thousands of DNA samples have been donated to the city’s medical examiner’s office. Most include swabs of saliva from close relatives, but also DNA taken from items used by the missing persons themselves, including toothbrushes, combs, razor blades and, once, even a sanitary napkin.

They’ve led to the identification of about 50 missing people each year, all of whom had been found dead. But for many who have submitted samples, the wait continues.

“Part of you hopes they never call you, because if they call, that means it’s over,” said Rose Cobo, who submitted DNA to the program after her adult niece vanished in 2016 after being treated at a Brooklyn hospital for postpartum depression following the birth of a son. Chelsea Cobo’s whereabouts are still unknown.

The program helped end Luis Merchan’s quest to find his younger brother, Manuel, who was reported missing in 2015 after he left his native Ecuador and crossed the U.S. border from Mexico. DNA matched with the remains of a 35-year-old “John Doe” who succumbed to exposure and dehydration in the Texas desert.

“It’s sad,” Merchan said. “We hoped Manuel would call one day. But we at least know what happened.”

On any given day, there are as many as 100,000 active missing-persons cases in the U.S., according to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Most of those people are eventually found safe. The medical examiner’s office program is open to people whose loved ones have been missing 60 days or more.

Israel’s Netanyahu issues sharp warning to Iran

February 18, 2018 - 8:15pm

MUNICH — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday issued a stark warning to Iran, saying his nation was prepared to go to war if the Iranians continue to test Israeli red lines in Syria.

Brandishing what he said was a fragment of an Iranian drone shot down over Israeli territory last week, Netanyahu cited Iran’s efforts to “colonize” Syria with a permanent military base and use the war-ravaged nation as a launch pad for operations in Israel.

“Israel will not allow Iran’s regime to put the noose of terror around our neck,” he said. “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act, if necessary, not only against Iranian proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself.”

The warning came in a widely anticipated speech Netanyahu delivered to the Munich Security Conference, the world’s most prominent gathering of its type. The saber-rattling address was followed later Sunday with a speech by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“Mr. Zarif, do you recognize it?” Netanyahu asked as he held the drone fragment aloft. “You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel’s resolve.”

In his own speech, Zarif dismissed Netanyahu’s address as a “cartoonish circus.”

The Iranian foreign minister cited “almost daily incursions into Syrian airspace” by Israeli aircraft, its strikes against targets in Lebanon and its occupation of Palestinian lands.

“Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbors,” he said. He suggested that Netanyahu was deliberately raising tensions as a way to distract from his troubles at home.

Netanyahu has for years been making dire predictions about the potential for war with Iran, a regional power that he Saturday described as “the greatest threat to our world.”

But the dynamic is different now: Netanyahu is weakened domestically, with police investigators recommending he should be charged with corruption. He also feels emboldened abroad, as he finds new allies in President Trump and in an Arab world that has been increasingly willing to put aside its longtime enmity toward Israel to oppose mutual rival Iran.

The latest escalation of Middle East tensions began last weekend when Israel shot down the Iranian drone that had crossed into its airspace. Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria in retaliation for the incursion, but one of its F-16 fighter jets crashed while under fire.

Scarborough Downs project expected to take 20-40 years

February 18, 2018 - 8:14pm

SCARBOROUGH — The timeline for completion of a mixed-use community at Scarborough Downs has increased from an initial estimate of 15-30 years to up to 40 years.

A local developer and part of his team met with the Town Council and staff last week to discuss short- and long-term plans for the 500-acre property that now includes a harness racing track, a grandstand and outlying barns.

The entire build-out of the project is now estimated at 20-40 years, said Dan Bacon, a planning project manager with the Gorrill Palmer engineering and planning firm hired by Crossroads Holdings LLC.

Crossroads includes developers William and Marco Risbara, along with their brother, Rocco Risbara III, of Risbara Bros. Construction Co., and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors. The group purchased the property in January for $6.7 million, and initially estimated the project would take up to 30 years to complete.

A master plan will go before the Planning Board in March or April, Bacon said. The conceptual infrastructure plans have already gone to the board.

Main topics of discussion at the workshop included zoning amendments, and the mixed-use plan for the property, about 200 to 300 acres of which is considered developable.

The first section to be developed will be a residential area on the southern section of the property. The northern section, along Payne Road, is eyed for commercial and industrial activity due to its proximity to the Maine Turnpike and other commercial activity along Payne Road, Bacon said.

The central area, where the race track is operating now, is designated for mixed use. The track may be retained or retrofitted and will remain a focal point of the property, Bacon said.

Scarborough Downs will host harness racing for at least two more years while the new owners solidify their plans for the property. Crossroads Holdings expects to invest more than three times the purchase price, making infrastructure improvements to prepare the land for development, according to the group.

In the short term, a two-year lease will be signed with the Downs’ current owner, Sharon Terry. The arrangement will preserve 60 or more jobs at the track, Risbara said.

Bacon said a shopping center and office campus could be constructed in the western portion of the property.

The eastern area, where the stables are located, would be residential and could also include an assisted living facility.

Bacon said market trends show that nationally, a suburban location with urban amenities is the most desirable development. What is envisioned at Scarborough Downs mimics that ideal, with a person able to live in Scarborough and also walk to work, a coffee shop, or to various entertainment.

There is strong competition in surrounding communities, so the Scarborough Downs property must create a unique environment, he said.

Bacon said the zoning for the project is “90 percent there.” The zone was specifically created for the site to allow for mixed-use, residential and commercial activity.

In the Feb. 8 presentation, Bacon said the vision for the property is a walkable, bikeable area with multi-generational housing, a community center, recreation, and also commercial activity, from coffee shops to manufacturing.

Jay Chase, the town’s planning director, said the purpose of the district is to foster collaboration between the town and developer, although 10 percent of the residences built on the property must be affordable.

Risbara said the project’s focus will likely change over time in line with market forces.

In response to a question from Councilor Katy Foley, Risbara said solar energy is being discussed as an option.

Zoning amendments requested by developers include an updated boundary line, as well as accommodations for manufacturing and industrial space, a convenience store, fuel station, and drive-thru restaurant.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext., 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net.


Supporters of heating aid program vow to fight elimination

February 18, 2018 - 8:03pm

The Trump administration is once again calling for the complete elimination of a heating assistance program that helps to keep the homes of low-income families warm. And once again, program supporters are vowing to fight it.

The administration is using the same arguments from a year ago when it tried to abolish the program, saying it’s rife with fraud and that no one would be left freezing if the program goes away.

“These arguments are very misleading and wrong,” said Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association in Washington, D.C.

The program, known as LIHEAP – Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – helps families pay their heating bills primarily in the form of a grant that’s sent directly to utility companies or heating fuel vendors.

President Trump tried to eradicate the program last year, but encountered resistance in Congress. In October, he released nearly $3 billion, or roughly 90 percent, of the funding.

Critics say that money won’t go as far as in past years because of rising prices.

Nonetheless, program supporters say LIHEAP is a lifeline for the elderly, disabled and others on fixed incomes.

“If the president turned around and did away with that funding, I have no idea how we’d survive in the winter,” said Dwayne LaBrecque, a diabetic who is on disability after losing several toes and part of his foot to infection.

LaBrecque’s income plummeted when he lost his job as a shipping manager, leaving him to cobble together an existence for himself, his fiancee and their five children in the rural Maine town of Hartford. The family received about $1,000 in heating assistance this winter, and that money is already gone.

The Trump supporter said he hopes the president has a change of heart. He said he won’t be voting for Trump again if he succeeds in killing off the program.

The president’s 2019 budget was released Monday and would cut other social programs such as federal housing assistance and the food stamp program, in addition to eliminating heating aid.

Like last year, the proposal faces an uphill fight in Congress.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, told the White House budget director that the Trump administration is creating “a situation where people will go cold, some may freeze to death.”

LIHEAP is popular in both cold weather and warm weather states, like Florida and Arizona, where it also distributes money to keep people keep cool in the summer. All told, the program helps 6 million households.

A group of 45 senators asked the president to maintain energy assistance and weatherization assistance programs.

A dangerous stretch of cold weather around the new year underscored the need for the program, said Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King. And Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire called gutting the program “dangerous and unacceptable.”

Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he’ll fight for the program that provides “vital resources” to help those in need keep their homes safe and warm and “to make ends meet.”

Trump’s tweets admit Russian interference

February 18, 2018 - 7:51pm

WASHINGTON — Before Friday, when special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a damning grand jury indictment against Russians for 2016 election meddling, it was much easier for President Trump to dismiss the entire inquiry as a Democratic hoax and witch hunt.

Trump had long sought to discredit claims of Russian interference, suggesting that email hacks of the Democratic National Committee might instead have been the Chinese, North Korea or a even a hacker sitting in his bedroom.

But Mueller’s steady, relentless investigation is complicating Trump’s efforts to spin the Russia debate, cutting off some of his favorite lines of defense and forcing him to adjust his attacks.

Those difficulties were apparent in a series of 15 Twitter posts over 19 hours late Saturday and early Sunday – an unusual outburst even for Trump. In one, he tried to conflate the Mueller investigation with the FBI’s failure to act on warnings about the man accused of being the Florida school massacre gunman.

Trump wrote that the FBI missed clues about Nikolas Cruz because, in the president’s view, the agency was preoccupied with the Russia investigation. He provided no evidence to back up the assertion and critics said it was baseless.

“This is not acceptable,” Trump posted from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”


In other posts, Trump seemed to be scrambling to rewrite his past statements and parse his positions – acknowledging Russian meddling, but insisting, without evidence, that it didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential race or include any collusion with his campaign.

“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said, ignoring his repeated past assertions.

Later, he wrote that Russians “are laughing their asses off in Moscow” because they had “succeeded beyond their wildest dreams” in sowing discord in the U.S.

In doing do, Trump seemed to again acknowledge Russian interference, but suggested that U.S. actions to investigate the activity were weakening the nation.

The indictment Friday accused 13 Russians and three Russian companies of orchestrating an elaborate, secret campaign using social media to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy while promoting Trump.

In addition to forcing Trump into some untenable positions, the indictment also makes it much more difficult for Trump to shut down the investigation as a waste of time or money, by firing Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as some reporting has suggested the president has wanted to do.

And it raises new questions about Trump’s steadfast refusal to take any action against Russia as a result of the meddling. Since before taking office, he has refused to criticize President Vladimir Putin or fully enact sanctions against Russia that were approved almost unanimously by Congress as punishment for its interference. All major U.S. intelligence agencies are warning that Russians will interfere in the upcoming midterm elections.

Instead of focusing on Mueller’s findings about how Russians interfered in the election, Trump has emphasized that the indictment Friday did not specifically target his campaign for criminal wrongdoing.

“This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian activities.


Trump also took a swipe at his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who said Saturday that the indictment proved that Russian meddling was beyond dispute.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,” Trump wrote, before launching into his familiar accusation that it was Clinton who colluded with the Russians.

McMaster spoke at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, which was also attended by senior Russian officials who scoffed at the Mueller indictment as “blabber” and fantasy.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a frequent critic of Trump, said Sunday that although the FBI made a “terrible mistake” in dropping the ball on Cruz, it was “absurd” to link that to the Russian investigation. He spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Numerous Republican and Democratic lawmakers spoke out Sunday to criticize Trump for mixing the issues and for continuing to fail to address the core problem of Russian meddling.

“They’re going to try it again,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R.S.C., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” referring to Russian operatives. “Russia is not our friend,” he said.

Putin’s government is “trying to subvert our democracy,” Gowdy said. “Americans – not Democrats or Republicans – are the victims.”


Putin “is not going to stop until we stop him,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said on the same program.

Coons called for a wider offensive against Russian meddling that would involve not only Congress but also European allies who have found Moscow trying to tamper with their elections. He lamented a lack of leadership at the top.

“Why is President Trump failing to act to protect our democracy?” he said.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was more supportive of Trump, suggesting that the still-incomplete Mueller investigation has not revealed evidence that the outcome of the 2016 election was changed by the Russian efforts.

But, Scott said, “there’s no question Russians have done all they can to meddle in our elections.”

Florida students focus anger, frustration at Trump

February 18, 2018 - 7:22pm

PARKLAND, Fla. — Students who escaped the deadly school shooting in Florida focused their anger Sunday at President Trump, contending that his response to the attack has been needlessly divisive.

“You’re the president. You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us,” said David Hogg, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Hogg was responding to Trump’s tweet Saturday that Democrats hadn’t passed any gun control measures during the brief time they controlled Congress with a supermajority in the Senate. Trump also alluded to the FBI’s failure to act on tips that the suspect was dangerous, while bemoaning the bureau’s focus on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

Trump was at his Florida estate Sunday but did not mention the attack in a series of tweets. The White House said the president would hold a “listening session” with unspecified students on Wednesday and meet with state and local security officials Thursday.


Florida politicians, meanwhile, scrambled to produce legislation in response to the Feb. 14 attack that killed 17 people. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, is being held without bail at Broward County Jail, accused of 17 counts of first-degree murder.

In a TV interview, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio embraced a Democratic bill in the Florida legislature to allow courts to temporarily prevent people from having guns if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others.

Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican, attended a prayer vigil and is expected to announce a legislative package this week.

Emma Gonzalez, another student who survived the attack, cited Trump, Rubio and Scott by name in a warning to politicians who are supported by the National Rifle Association.

“Now is the time to get on the right side of this, because this is not something that we are going to let sweep under the carpet,” she said on “Meet the Press.”

The students have vowed to become the face of a movement for tighter firearm regulations and plan to visit the state capitol this week to demand immediate action..

Organizers behind the Women’s March, an anti-Trump protest, called for a 17-minute, nationwide walkout by teachers and students on March 14. The Network for Public Education, an advocacy organization for public schools, announced a day of walkouts, sit-ins and other events on school campuses April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 12 students and one teacher dead.

Not every student at the Florida school was calling for more gun control. James Ciaramello, a freshman in the school’s JROTC program, on Friday paused at a memorial in a park in front of a photo of one victim, 15-year-old Peter Wang, another JROTC student who was killed after holding open a door so others could escape.

“He’s just messed up,” Ciaramello said of Cruz, who was also in JROTC. “I mean, tighter gun control, it’s not gonna help. There’s always a way around it.”

School and government records obtained Sunday show Cruz was diagnosed as developmentally delayed at age 3 and had disciplinary issues dating to middle school. In February 2014, while in eighth grade, Cruz was transferred to a special school for children with emotional and behavioral issues. He stayed there until 10th grade, when he was transferred to Stoneman Douglas. A month after arriving, Cruz was written up for using profanity. Last year, Cruz was expelled.

Stacey Sindon, 51, mourns in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Sunday. Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP

On Sept. 28, 2016, an investigator from the Florida Department of Children and Families visited Cruz and his mother, Lynda Cruz, after he posted video on Snapchat showing him cutting himself. The report showed that Cruz had written a racial epithet against African-Americans and a Nazi symbol on his book bag, which his mother had forced him to erase. The investigator said Cruz was suffering from depression and on medication and had told Lynda Cruz he planned to buy a gun.


She said he had been depressed after breaking up with a girlfriend who had been cheating on him, the investigator said. A school counselor told the investigator that Lynda Cruz had always tried to help her son and followed through on his therapy and medication, but the counselor was concerned about the youth’s desire to buy a gun.

A crisis counselor told the DCF investigator he had visited the school and that he did not believe Cruz was a danger to himself or others.

After Lynda Cruz died in November, Cruz moved into the home of a teenage friend. The friend’s parents told the Sun-Sentinel they had no idea the extent of Cruz’s issues.

“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead told the newspaper.

The Sneads said Cruz kept the AR-15 he allegedly used in the massacre locked in a gun safe with a few other firearms. James Snead thought he had the only key. The family kept their own rifles, bought after a burglary a few years ago, in a separate locked cabinet.

They told Cruz he needed to ask permission to take out the guns. He had asked only twice since November. They said “yes” once and “no” once.

On Wednesday morning, Cruz told them he didn’t need a ride to school: “It’s Valentine’s Day and I don’t go to school on Valentine’s Day,” he said.

Cruz sent their son a few texts that day. In one, he had “something important” he wanted to tell the teen. Then he wrote: “Nothing man.”