The Coastal Packet

Wednesday, July 23

Nestle contributes to California water shortage

Al Jazeera - The Golden State is in the third year of record drought, and while consumer restrictions are not expected to make a sizeable dent in state water usage on their own, officials hope the fines, which go into effect August 1, will send a message to Californians who apparently have yet to grasp the severity of the situation.

That message, however, has not, it seems, reached Nestlé Waters North America, makers of a variety of bottled waters, including Arrowhead brand.

... In contrast to the Arrowhead labels showing snowy mountain streams, the water in many of those bottles comes from a spring in Millard Canyon, on the grounds of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in Cabazon, Calif., west of Palm Springs.

Access to the spring actually belongs to the Morongo tribe, which bought the rights from the Cabazon Water District in the early part of the last decade for $3 million. Soon after, the tribe cut a 25-year deal with Perrier Group of America, a division of Nestlé, to bottle Arrowhead water.

California water districts are required to report their water consumption and the levels in their wells to the state. The Morongo Indians, however, are a sovereign nation, and therefore exempt form oversight.

Through 2009, Nestlé Waters, the division that operates the Millard Canyon facility, provided the state with annual reports, but after that, the flow of information has slowed to a trickle. The state has used a rounded estimate of 244 million gallons pumped out per year — roughly the annual usage for 480 area homes, according to calculations used by area newspaper The Desert Sun.

... “The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” said Peter Gleick in The Desert Sun. Gleick has toured the Millard Canyon plant in the past and has written about the bottled water industry. “Surface water in the desert is exceedingly rare and has a much higher environmental value than the same amount of water somewhere else,” Gleick said.

The Arrowhead facility is one of Nestlé’s largest in North America, but it not the only one to see controversy. The company, under its Poland Spring brand, has been in a decade-long struggle with Maine over rights to drill springs and purchase water from a variety of counties outside the area where the original Poland Spring was sourced. The company has also been sued for selling regular municipal groundwater as natural spring water.

Nestlé is America’s largest water bottler, controlling a third of the market. In addition to Arrowhead and Poland Spring, it sells water under the Nestlé Pure Life, Deer Park, Perrier and San Pellegrino names, as well as several other regional brands.

Tuesday, July 22

South Portland bans tar sands

WCSH - With a 6-1 vote, South Portland City Councilors have made history by passing an ordinance to block the loading of crude oil, including tar sands oil. According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, South Portland is the first community to pass such an ordinance.

Maine ranks 14th for kids' well being

WCSH - The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual KIDS COUNT report and ranked Maine 14th among all the states.

One of Maine's biggest improvements in that only five percent of Maine children were without health insurance in 2012, compared to 10 percent in 1990. However, KIDS COUNT data shows that poverty among Maine children has increased, with 21 percent living in poverty in 2012 compared to 13 percent in 1990.

- Over one-third of Maine children now live in households where parents lack full-time, year-round employment.

- Disconnected youth: In 2012, 5,000 or 8 percent of Maine teens ages 16 to 19 were not working and not in school - also referred to as "disconnected youth."

- About 44 percent of Maine's 3 and 4-year-olds were enrolled in preschool, up from 40 percent five years ago.

- Reading proficiency: 37 percent of Maine's fourth graders are reading at a proficient level. Nationally, 34 percent of 4"' graders were proficient in reading in 2013.

- Math scores: 40 percent of eighth' graders scoring proficient, up from 30 percent in 2005. Maine ranks 10th in the nation on this indicator.

- High school graduation rates:In 2005-06, 76 percent of Maine high school students graduated on time; in 2011-12, that figure rose to 87 percent.

Health: Maine ranks third in this domain:
- Access to healthcare: In 2012, 95 percent of Maine's children had health insurance coverage. However, 12,000 Maine children still lacked health benefits.

- Between 2005 and 2012, the percentage of low birth weight babies born in Maine decreased from 63 percent to 6.6 percent.

- Child & teen death rate: In 2010, Maine's child and teen death rate was 27 deaths per 100,000 children.
- Teens and substance use: In 2012, six percent of Maine teens reported that they abused or were dependent on alcohol or drugs during the last year, a 45 percent decrease from 2005/2006, when 11 percent of teens reported substance abuse or dependence.

Police blotter

Penobscot Bay Pillot - Police converged on a short portion of Main Street in Warren Monday morning, after a possible and suspected incendiary device was discovered in a mailbox across the street from the Warren Public Library.

Main Street in Warren was closed, between the north side of the bridge up to the post office. A Maine State Police bomb squad was en route and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Warren Fire Department were on scene around 10 a.m., along with the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office and an investigator with the U.S. Postal Service.

The road has now been opened, after police learned that the paper towel tube inside the mailbox contained a rolled-up Flag Day flag, placed inside the mailbox by two 8-year-old boys.

Sunday, July 20

Dealing with a game warden

Born & Raised in Maine: I was walkin' on the beach in Old Orchard with a Lobsta in each hand when a Game Warden stopped me and said, "Did you know that I could fine you $15,000 per lobsta for pulling someone's trap?" I replied, "These lobstas are my pets. I've just brought them to the beach for a little swim. If I put them in the water, they will swim around a while and all I have to do is call them back to me." The game warden laughed and said, "Ok. Show me." So, I put the lobstas in the water and the game warden said, "Ok. Call them back now." I said, "Call who back?" He said, "The lobstas". I said, "What lobstas?"

No gubernatorial candidate firmly opposed to corporate highway wall dividing Maine

Bangor Daily News -  LePage and Cutler may both be noncommittal on the east-west highway proposal because of a lack of specific information, but both previously have given support to a plan to facilitate more trade infrastructure between the Maritimes, Maine and interior North America.

At a “Leaders Roundtable” in Bangor four years ago, Cutler said he would need to see Canada put some skin in the game.“We need to look to Canada for financial participation,” Cutler said. “This road is going to benefit Canada as much as it will benefit Maine.”

LePage said he thought an east-west transportation route was necessary and attainable.
“We should have been doing these things 20 years ago,” he said.

Michaud came closest to having a firm position against the project. He previously supported the idea of a public highway from Calais to Watertown, New York, and said he wasn’t opposed to the idea of a private highway on principle. However, he said he didn’t think Cianbro could possibly acquire the necessary land without asking the state to use its eminent domain authority, which Michaud said he would oppose.

Vigue has said he will not seek to use eminent domain. Still, Michaud said he was skeptical.
“He’d have to go through the regular regulatory process. If he can get it done, as governor, I’m not going to say he can’t do it,” Michaud said. “If he feels it’s viable and he can get the land and meet the environmental criteria, then sure. I’m just not sure it’s something that’s doable.”

Saturday, July 19

The story behind the East-West Corridor scheme

Stop the East West Corridor - Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro Corp., is spearheading an effort by corporate investors to build a transportation and utility corridor that would run 220 miles from Calais to Coburn Gore, beginning with the construction of a four-lane highway. Labeled as the Trade Gateway through Maine, this toll road is intended for heavy-weight-truck transport from Canada across Maine into Canada. The corridor does not follow existing state highways and would require between 500 and 2000 feet in right-of-way width (compared to I-95 at 300 feet wide). The State of Maine was conducting a publicly funded feasibility study on the private investors' project, costing state taxpayers $300,000, but during the last legislative session members of STEWC worked with legislators to rescind that study, and also lifted the confidentiality clause in Public-Private-Partnerships so that PPP information would be available to the public.

Would the Corridor bring jobs?

The East-West Corridor has been estimated to create a few hundred long-term jobs for Maine. The issue of existing jobs lost due to the project has never been broached and is not being evaluated in the State's feasibility study. A corridor highway running from Canada to Canada would siphon business away from local communities. Any development that might follow a super-highway---gas stations, strip malls, and transnational resource extraction businesses---would further harm traditional land-use jobs, including farming and logging, and devitalize existing rural town centers. Many snowmobile routes could be cutoff, limiting traffic to rural communities that rely on this tourism.

Would property rights be respected?

The East-West Corridor has been referred to both as a "public- private partnership" or PPP and as a private project. If the project moves forward as a PPP, a confidentiality clause within Maine law prevents the public from accessing any information about the proposal until it is granted final approval by our Legislature. Additionally, with state involvement, eminent domain would be an option for land acquisition. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that eminent domain can be used in the transfer of privately owned property to another private entity if the state determines such a transfer provides an economic benefit to the public good. The State of Maine feasibility study currently being conducted might provide the necessary documentation of public benefit to allow eminent domain.

How would the corridor affect Maine's wildlife and natural resources?

The corridor would seriously reduce if not halt the migration of animals---moose, deer, bear, coyote, lynx, and bobcat, to name a few. Normal travel routes and habitats would be altered permanently. In addition, the proposed corridor could forever damage trout and salmon habitat dependent upon aquifers across the Stud Mill Road---an area Mainers have been working to restore. All Mainers benefit from our large bodies of water and rivers being free from pollution, runoff, and degradation. Corridor construction would damage thousands of acres of sensitive wetlands and waterways. The extensive scope of the project has the potential to drain finite local gravel and loam resources for highway construction.

How would the corridor affect the communities it passes through?

Villages in the path of the project would be bisected. The route of the corridor is veiled in secrecy and landowners are living in fear that they would lose their property. Those who live near the corridor's route would suffer true and unrecoverable financial loss. They would not be able to sell for a fair price and they would not be compensated for plummeting property values.

Two documentaries on the East-West Corridor

Koch Brothers invading Maine

Another sign that Maine is seen by some as Exploitionland rather than Vacactionland

Truth Out -  Maine has one of the most advanced renewable electricity laws in the nation. Even if one can argue it doesn't go far enough, it's a 15-year-old example of a first-step earth-friendly electricity initiative that works.

According to Democrat Phil Bartlett, former Maine Senate majority leader writing in the Bangor Daily News,
[Since its inception 15 years ago] Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard has created thousands of jobs, cut down on harmful pollution and helped to keep more of Mainers’ energy dollars in the state. Requiring 30 percent of the state’s energy providers’ electricity sales to come from renewables such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric power, it has also led to tremendous investment by renewable energy companies that are paying more than $17 million annually in property taxes and employing more than 2,500 Mainers.
Simply put, the Renewable Portfolio Standard is working — for everyday Mainers and businesses alike. In light of our struggling economy, programs such as the RPS should be celebrated and protected.
But Maine's Tea Party governor, Paul LePage, and some Maine legislators are trying to weaken the renewable energy mandate in order to allow the fossil fuel profiteers a bigger jolt of electricity generated dollars.

Bartlett charges that,

A new report by the Maine Conservation Alliance, Maine’s Majority Education Fund and Maine People’s Alliance, issued earlier this month, sheds some light on the powerful forces fueling LePage and his allies’ efforts to weaken Maine’s RPS: Charles and David Koch, billionaire industrialists from Kansas and owners of the second largest private company in the U.S. with revenues estimated at $100 billion a year.

The Kochs have an aggressive network of front groups at their behest in our state, which they leverage frequently to help them promote and pursue their financial interests. These groups operate for the most part behind the scenes in the form of think tanks, campaigns, nonprofit organizations and legislative PACs. The activities of this network are deceptive by design to mask their deep self-interest: The Kochs have no stake in the long-term viability of our state, aside from making sure that the policies in place bolster their bottom line.
Of course, one of the biggest front groups Bartlett identifies is the ubiquitous state capital lobbying organization, ALEC.  He describes how the Koch brothers polluting electricity grab makes its way through the Maine legislature:

The process goes something like this: Businesses affiliated with the Kochs (including oil and gas companies such as ExxonMobil) give vast sums of money to groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that drafts conservative model bills that are introduced by legislators who are ALEC members and receive campaign donations from ALEC-affiliated groups. Once a bill is introduced, Americans for Prosperity, another national, Koch-connected group with a chapter in Maine, mobilizes to promote the legislation and attack any legislative opponents. In tandem with these efforts, the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative, free-market think-tank that is a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network, will often push out reports funded by the same corporate interests that stand to benefit from their conclusions.
What's more, according to Barlett and consistent with the ALEC model of pushing a templated pro-corporate bill through in a number of states, the Koch-brothers-friendly "Electricity Freedom Act" has been introduced in 16 additional states this year.

Due to the vast imbalance in assets and the loosening of corporate contributions in many states (as well as on the federal level), cash-rich business sectors control many state legislatures, just as they do Congress.  This is particularly true of the fossil fuel industry and the Koch brothers.

Augusta offers little libraries

Kennebec Journal - The new Little Free Libraries – wooden and Plexiglas boxes filled with books – have been placed at four city parks where children congregate over the summer, as part of Augusta Literacy for ME team efforts to promote and improve literacy.

The idea of the project is to encourage children and their parents to read by making books easily available to them for free. Users are asked, in general, to take a book and leave a book, though the unstaffed libraries will work on the honor system.

“There’s no signing out. You just take a book and leave a book,” said Theresa Violette, Title I director for Augusta Schools and a member of Augusta Literacy for ME, a team of educators, parents, child development experts and others focused on promoting literacy. “The whole idea is to share literature.”

Friday, July 18

CBS to feature Thoreau in Maine

CBS Sunday Morning - On CBS' "Sunday Morning" July 20, correspondent Don Dahler joins a group of adventurers who travel more than 300 miles through Maine's backwoods to retrace one of Henry Thoreau's greatest journeys.

!50th anniversay of Thoreau's "The Maine Woods"

Boston Globe -  It is all mossy and moosey,” Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) wrote in “The Maine Woods,” a collection of three essays detailing the author’s travels in the backwoods of northern Maine. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication in 1864.

To celebrate, several Maine inns, lodges, and outfitters are offering special packages, including guided canoe trips, tours, and hikes revisiting many of the stops on his journeys over the years. For more information, visit Meanwhile, here’s looking at Thoreau’s trips by the numbers.
325: Miles Thoreau traveled on his trips through Maine

3: Number of trips Thoreau made to write “The Maine Woods”

40: Thoreau’s age at the time of his last trip

10: Lakes crossed

6: Rivers crossed

11: Years between Thoreau’s first and last trip to Maine

166: Pounds of luggage he brought

80: Pounds his canoe weighed

600: Pounds total canoe weight with Thoreau, his guide Joe Polis, and the luggage.

2: Last words spoken by Thoreau (“moose” and “Indian”)

7-8: Dollar value of the hide of the moose felled by Polis.
For more information about activities celebrating “The Maine Woods,” click here, here, and here.

Maine unemnployment lowest in six years

Press Herald - Maine’s unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent in June, the lowest it has been since August 2008, according to preliminary estimates from the state Department of Labor.

It was down from 5.7 percent in May and 6.7 percent in June 2013, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The number of jobless Mainers has declined by 8,200 over the past year to 39,300, it said, adding that the share of Maine’s population employed in June was 61.6 percent, well above the national average of 59 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate estimate declined to 6.1 percent in June from 6.3 percent in May and 7.5 percent in June 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The New England unemployment rate averaged 5.7 percent. Rates for other states were 4.4 percent in New Hampshire, 3.5 percent in Vermont, 5.5 percent in Massachusetts, 7.9 percent in Rhode Island, and 6.7 percent in Connecticut, the department said.

Thursday, July 17

How do barnicles mate?

It’s hard enough to find a mate when you’re able to get up and move around. But just imagine the difficulties the poor barnacle faces, permanently glued to an underwater rock or hull.

Wired -   Most sessile animals (organisms that spend their lives anchored to something else) simply shoot their sperm and eggs into the water and hope for the best. Barnacles, however, actually copulate with each other. They manage this feat with an amazing penis that is capable of seeking out partners and mating with them.

Barnacles have evolved some of the longest penises, relative to body size, of any creature. Barnacle penises can stretch to up to eight times the length of their bodies.

Most barnacles are hermaphrodites that may act as either a male or a female. They can’t self-fertilize, though, so they need to find a partner. They’re aided by chemosensory bristles covering their penises. The bristles allow barnacles acting as males to detect the chemical signals given out by barnacles acting as females. Once the male barnacle “sniffs out” a receptive partner, it uses its long, stretchy penis to reach out and mate with her. (Check out a video from CreatureCast here).

Recent research has revealed even more to this bizarre love story. It turns out barnacle penises are sensitive and adaptable to different ocean conditions and population densities.

Lewiston to provide assistance to undocumented immigrants

The city of Lewiston, home to one of the state's largest immigrant and refugee populations, will continue providing General Assistance to all new Mainers, at least for now, despite a recent state directive advising cities and towns to deny GA to undocumented immigrants.

Maine brewery tries to make beer out of seaweed

At . on the Belfast, Maine, waterfront, new beers begin their journey into draft lines and pint glasses inside two large tanks. Marshall Wharf has a reputation for making some unconventional beers — a stout with locally sourced oysters, for example, and a wheat-infused kolsch with jalapeno and habanero peppers. A few years ago, David Carlson, the brewing company's owner, discovered a beer from Scotland, called Kelpie, made with seaweed. "If there's seaweed in Maine and it's a good product," he says, "why not try putting it in the beer?" - NPR

Wednesday, July 16

Maine farm stats

From Maine Farmland Trust

Maine is now #1 in New England agricultural sales, up from behind Connecticut and Vermont in 2002.

There are 8,183 farms up from 7,196 in 2002

48% of our farmers are in it fulltime as opposed to 43% in 2007

29% of farmers are women up from 25% in 2007

3% of our farms earn over $500,000 annually as opposed to a national average of 7.4%

A reply to urban editorial BS

Below is a Maine Voices piece submitted to the Portland Press Herald on July 9 in response to a July 2 editorial written by Greg Kesich. MacMillan is chair of the Portland Green Independent Committee and a candidate for the Maine House of Representatives

Tom McMillan - In the recent editorial ‘Portland-style conservatives have chance to shape city’s future’, the writer demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the words ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’. In reality, the politics put forth by the majority of Portland’s City Council are neo-liberal in nature. Neoliberals believe in privatization of public goods, i.e. public parks. The Council has also handed out millions of dollars in subsidies, which many consider welfare for corporations. Those of us on the other side, believe in using government to promote the public good, which is the real meaning of a green and progressive politics. If the definition of progressive politics is the sale of downtown public parks to giant out of state corporations, I am happy to be anything but.

During the recent parks referendum, Portland’s true conservatives lined up behind Mayor Brennan and the Democratic majority on the City Council. In fact, the most conservative force in city politics, the Chamber of Commerce, worked hand in hand with Mayor Brennan and the Council majority to distort the facts, demonize local residents who use Congress Square Park and push privatization as the solution.

In his op-ed, the writer singles out the Maine Green Independent Party as one of the primary protagonists against unrestrained development. Greens have stood for development that meets the needs and values of each unique community since our founding thirty years ago. We were glad to stand side by side with fellow Portland residents of all political persuasions to protect Portland's park system, including Congress Square Park. The Green Independent Party and its members will continue to stand for the public good and to protect public assets against ever increasing corporate influence.

Since the editor asked  for solutions to Portland's problems, here are a few:

* Eliminate corporate welfare. Portland's taxpayers have been saddled with millions of dollars in handouts to wealthy corporations. Look no further than City Hall’s recent decision to allow wealthy Democratic donor and husband of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Donald Sussman, not to pay the $385,000 fee for demolishing 6 units on the East End because he is a silent investor in 6 luxury condo units atop Munjoy Hill or the $9 million subsidy approved for a parking garage for the Midtown development. The list of handouts to developers continues, many of which were approved by 'progressive' Mayor Michael Brennan. Portland’s taxpayers have seen their property taxes rise because some wealthy developers are not paying their fair share of the city’s tax bill.

* Invest city funds into developing worker cooperatives, as New York City is currently doing. Worker cooperatives help improve traditionally low-wage jobs by channeling the enterprises' profits directly to their worker members. Putting money into training people to work together for personal and common benefit will keep money in the hands of local workers and improve the local economy, all without green-lighting development antithetical to Portland's longstanding values.

* Raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, as Seattle recently has. Many cities and states across the country have raised their minimum wage recently, including similarly sized Richmond, California (population 103,000). It should come as no surprise that Richmond also has a Green majority on their City Council and a Green mayor. Here in Portland, I am thankful to be working with Mayor Brennan on raising the city minimum wage and I hope we will move forth with a living wage. The Maine Greens have endorsed the $15 NOW campaign and call upon the City Council to move quickly in putting more money into the hands of the working class.

Portland’s Green and progressive communities do have the opportunity to shape our city’s future. On many issues, such as the protection of public parks, we represent the majority of Portland residents. We must protect our parks and make Portland a place more open to democracy. Too many city councilors have closed their ears and hearts to residents concerned about the future of our city.

Another of LePage's Sovreign Citizen pals arrested

The Bangor Daily News reports that Jack McCarthy, one of the members of the  Constitutional Coalition, a group of Sovereign Citizen conspiracy theorists who met with Governor Paul LePage at least eight times last year, was found guilty of two counts of operating a vehicle without a license in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou .

Mike Tipping, Bangor Daily News  - The charges stemmed from a January 18 incident where a charging document provided by the Presque Isle Police Department indicates McCarthy was stopped by officers in front of the Irish Setter Pub and arrested for operating without a license, obstructing government administration and a failure to appear warrant out of Houlton.

McCarthy has deliberately refused to renew his license since 2011 as a form of civil disobedience against state and federal governments that he believes are illegal and has often urged others to do the same. On his Aroostook Watchmen radio show last Thursday, he defended his actions and equated them to “taking a sip out of the ‘negroes only’ drinking fountain.”

McCarthy is not the only one of the four main members of the Constitutional Coalition who has recently been arrested for pursuing anti-government beliefs. On May 21, according to reports in the Lincoln News, fellow constitutionalists Gary Smart was arrested after an encounter with officers of the Lincoln Police Department.

Storm hits York hard

Electricity had been restored Wednesday morning to most residents in the town of York, one of the areas hardest hit by powerful storms that roared through the state Tuesday evening.
At one point, the entire town of 10,098 customers were without power, as near-hurricane force winds toppled trees that pulled down wires. By 9 a.m. Wednesday, all but 557 had been restored. - Press Herald

Monday, July 14

Taking on the green crab crisis

Public- and private-sector efforts are underway to prevent a green crab invasion from becoming a real-life horror to Maine’s $17 million soft-shell clamming industry and marine life along the Maine coast.

Press Herald - Green crabs prey on clams and wreak havoc on eelgrass. Although the critters, which can be anywhere from 2½ to 5 inches long, have been reported in Maine for more than a century, scientists speculate that warming ocean temperatures have allowed the crabs to multiply and move north.

Four towns are studying the most effective ways to trap green crabs. The Department of Marine Resources is considering changing rules to make it easier to catch them. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are exploring opportunities to turn the predators into profit by marketing green crabs for everything from fish food to gourmet meals.

Last August, a green crab-trapping survey was conducted over two days in 30 locations along the coast. It confirmed the abundance of the invasive species. Of the 208 traps set, 193 had crabs in them.

Since last spring, Brian Beal, a marine ecology researcher at the University of Maine at Machias, has been doing a series of studies in Freeport, tracking crabs and assessing how they’re affecting clams in the area. Beal said he’s finding about one-tenth of the volume of green crabs that he and his team located this time last year. Some speculate that the winter weather was cold enough to kill off some of the population. But, he said, researchers in nearby areas – as close as Cousins Island – are coming in with hundreds of green crabs per trap and many are smaller juvenile crabs.

Marine biologist Darcie Couture, who is involved in a number of green crab projects, has seen a surge off the coast of Harpswell in recent weeks.

A group of federal, state and nonprofit agencies is trapping green crabs at five locations along the coast as part of a larger eelgrass study. A 2013 report showed a 58 percent decrease in eelgrass across Casco Bay since 2001, and green crabs were identified as a primary cause, said Hilary Neckles, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, which is spearheading the current study. When the green crabs prey on clams, they dislodge and clip off eelgrass, she said.

As awareness about the problem has grown, so has the effort to harvest crabs. In 2013, there were 52 licenses to fish green crabs, and 10,596 pounds were harvested, according to preliminary data from the Department of Marine Resources. The year before, 36 licenses were issued and 3,762 pounds landed.

Maine at top for privacy

According to an analysis by the ACLU, Maine, Utah and Tennessee are the best states for privacy. An interactive map gives details

South Portland heads for vote on marijuana

Citizens for a Safer Maine will submit a petition in South Portland in support of an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults. 

Press Herald - The group, which is also pushing for legalization votes in York and Lewiston, will submit more than 1,500 signatures to South Portland city officials . The group must submit 959 valid signatures of registered city voters to qualify for the November ballot.

Friday, July 11

Down East Notes

WCSH -  A new study has ranked Maine eighth in worst rural roads. According to the study by Trip, a national transportation research group, 28 percent of Maine's rural roads are in disrepair. That means roads in less populated towns and going through neighborhoods aren't getting the attention they need. The study also claimed that 16 percent of Maine's bridges need repair.

Bowdoin College has broken ground on a solar power complex that is to be seven times the size of the largest existing solar installation in the state. The 1.2 megawatt complex, to be built partially on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station land acquired by the college, will include approximately 4,500 solar panels.

MPBN -  When Somali immigrants come to the U.S., they often leave many family members behind. Many Somali immigrants serve as a lifeline for these family members, sending more than $200 million back home every year, according to OxFam America. But that lifeline may soon be severed because banks that wire the money are getting out of the business. And that could have huge consequences for Somalia, as well as Somali Americans here in Maine. ... Somalia doesn't have a developed banking sector that's linked to the international banking system. To send money, small transfer services will wire money to other Somali-American transfer companies, usually based around large Somali populations in the U.S., such as in Minnesota. But only a few U.S. banks are willing to wire the money to its final destination in Somalia. And citing pressure from federal regulators, at least one of these banks - Merchants Bank of California, according to media reports - plans to stop sending money.

Thursday, July 10

Down East Notes

WCSH - In a 6-1 initial vote, the South Portland City Council has approved the Clear Skies Ordinance, which blocks the bulk loading of crude oil, including tar sands oil. The ordinance now goes to the city's Planning Board, and would come to a final vote on July 21. About 400 people attended the meeting. The vote was originally scheduled for Monday, but too many people showed up at City Hall.The city secured the South Portland Community Center for the meeting Wednesday night, with space for about 500 people. Of the 67 speakers, 50 spoke in support of the ordinance.

Press Herald - Despite several high-profile collisions between moose and automobiles over the past week the number of such accidents has dropped significantly in Maine over the past several years, state officials say. The state averaged about 674 collisions annually from 1995 through 2007, with a high of 858 in 1998, according to figures from the Maine Department of Transportation. But from 2008 through 2013, the yearly average was about 443. Last year, there were 385 moose-vehicle collisions and no fatalities, and there have been only 113 collisions through July 9 this year, with one fatality that occurred this week ...Up to 80 percent of moose-vehicle accidents in Maine occur between dusk and dawn, according to the Maine DOT.

Wednesday, July 9

Why did Collins get this endorsement?

Collins Watch - As expected, League of Conservation Voters endorsed Sen. Susan Collins last week despite her middling lifetime rating of 67% on LCV's own scorecard.

By way of comparison: Collins's 69% rating for 2013 put her 34th out of the 35 Senate and House members who represented New England during that year.

The text of the endorsement is worth reading, if only because it includes a claim that is verifiably--and obviously--false:

"[Collins] is always fighting for the people of Maine by supporting commonsense policies that promote the state's outdoor heritage and help protect our air, water and public health."

To be sure, Collins has taken more than a few environmentally-friendly votes over the years. But since when does 67% get rounded up to "always"?

In short, rather than candidly explain the bargain the group has struck by standing with a pol who supported what LCV itself called the ""most anti-environment bill signed into law in recent memory", the organization has instead sidestepped the ickiness of the situation by simply lying about Collins's record.


Tuesday, July 8

Down East Notes

Cold weather effect on deer causes state to issue fewer hunting permits

The South Portland City Council postponed action on a proposal that would block tar sands oil from coming into the city because City Hall couldn’t accommodate an overcapacity turnout of supporters and opponents. About 200 people crowded into City Hall, with more people gathered outside the building. The council chamber exceeded its 100-person limit a half-hour before the meeting was scheduled to start.

The 12 organic dairy suppliers to Falmouth-based MOO Milk have decided to disband the company permanently and go their separate ways, MOO officials said.

Eliot Cutler: A campaigner without leadership

Tony Brinkley, Bangor Daily News - For three years, the Maine Legislature has grappled with difficult issues involving education, health care, reproductive rights, the environment, taxation, spending, equal opportunity, voting rights, civil liberties and much more. But, apart from announcing his position on some of these issues and providing some financial contributions for some of the causes he supports, Cutler was nowhere to be seen.

Arguably, Cutler’s only substantive contribution to Maine politics from 2010 until he announced his candidacy in 2013 was the creation of the advocacy organization OneMaine. Its stated goal was to foster political leadership in Maine that negotiated pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to Maine’s many problems. From its founding to its demise, OneMaine under Cutler’s leadership was remarkably ineffectual.


Monday, July 7

Strange Maine laws

Born & Raised in Maine

You may not step out of a plane in flight.
The most money one can legally win gambling is three dollars.
After January 14th you will be charged a fine for having your Christmas decorations still up.
In Augusta - To stroll down the street playing a violin is against the law.
In Biddeford - It is illegal to gamble at the airport.
In Freeport - Mercury thermometers may not be sold in the city.
In Freeport - It is illegal to expectorate from any second-story window.
In Portland - It is illegal for men to tickle women under the chin with feather dusters.
In South Berwick - It is illegal to park in front of Dunkin Donuts.
It Rumford - It is illegal for a tenant to bite his/her landlord.
In Waterboro - Dog leashes may not be over eight feet in length.
In Waterville - It is illegal to blow one's nose in public.
In Wells - Deer may not be fed.
In Wells - Advertisements may not be placed in cemeteries.

Saturday, July 5

Right wing billionaire from Arkansas eyes takeover of Maine papers

Al Diamon, The Bollard,Portland ME - S. Donald Sussman of Maine and Warren Stephens of Arkansas are both billionaires — Sussman through his management of hedge funds and Stephens through holdings in Bank of America and industries including natural gas and kitchen appliances. Both own newspapers — Sussman has the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel; Stephens controls Halifax Media Group, which operates 36 daily and weekly papers, mostly in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and the Carolinas. Stephens also owns a string of papers out west.

But there are significant differences between the two. Sussman is a major donor to liberal causes. Stephens is described as an “arch-conservative.”

After buying a majority ownership stake in Maine Today Media when the company was nearly bankrupt, Sussman invested heavily in additional newsroom staff and upgraded technology. Halifax Media has a history of laying off staff and making other cutbacks after buying publications.

In early June, Halifax completed its purchase of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from Boston Globe Media Partners. This was Halifax’s first acquisition in New England, but, according to two sources in the Massachusetts newspaper industry, it almost certainly won’t be the last. Halifax is what’s known in the industry as a “consolidator” — that is, a company that reduces expenses by consolidating the functions of several newspapers in a central location. These sources say Halifax plans to make the Worcester paper the hub of its northeast operations.

The sources say it’s likely Stephens’ company will soon be making inquiries about buying at least some of Sussman’s holdings, as well as several other Maine publications.

Among the papers Halifax is said to be considering for acquisition are Sussman’s Press Herald and Telegram, the Bangor Daily News, the Forecaster weeklies (which are owned by the Lewiston Sun Journal), as well as Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire, and several Massachusetts publications

Except possibly to Sussman, whose personal wealth, leftist bent and desire to protect the political career of his wife, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, might make him loathe to sell out to a company with an editorial policy charitably described by Worcester Magazine as “business friendly,” and by others as predictably right-wing.

Progressive Review - While covering the Clinton scandals, we developed a timeline on political life in Arkansas. Here are some relevant excerpts:


 Stephens Inc., along with White Weld, raises  $5 million in an IPO for a small Arkansas-based discount retailer, Wal-Mart Stores. The investment helped create the largest retailer in the world.


Two Indonesian billionaires come to Arkansas. Mochtar Riady and Liem Sioe Liong are close to President Suharto. Riady is looking for an American bank to buy. Finds Jackson Stephens with whom he forms Stephens Finance. Stephens will broker the arrival of the notorious BCCI to this country and steer BCCI's founder, Hassan Abedi, to Bert Lance.

Riady's teen-age son is taken on as an intern by Stephens Inc. He later says he was "sponsored" by Bill Clinton.


Mochtar Riady and Stephens Inc set up Stephens Finance Ltd. In Hong Kong.


Bill Clinton loses re-election as governor. He will win two years later. Larry Nichols will tell the George Putman Show in 1998 that he had met with Clinton and Jackson Stephen's brother Witt and that Witt had told Clinton that the Stephens were ready to back him for another run at the governorship but that he had to "dry out on the white stuff."


Stephens family invests in Worthen Bank.


Mochtar Riady and Stephens Inc buy the Hong Kong Chinese Bank.

Riady buys a stake in the Worthern holding company whose assets include the Stephens-controlled Worthen Bank. Price: $16 million. Deal handled by C. Joseph Giroir II. Giroir was the Rose law firm chair who hired Hillary Clinton. Giroir would continue to be a deal-maker for the Riadys and Liem Sioe Liong.


The New Jersey securities firm Bevill, Bresler & Schulman files for bankruptcy amid fraud charges and an estimated $240 million in losses; one of the biggest apparent losers is Stephens-dominated Worthen Bank, which holds with Bevill $52 million of Arkansas state funds in uncollateralized repurchase agreements.

Arkansas state pension funds – all of which have been deposited in Worthen by Governor Bill Clinton -- suddenly lose 15% of their value because of the failure of high risk, short-term investments and the brokerage firm that bought them. The $52 million loss is covered by a Worthen check written by Jackson Stephens in the middle of the night, an insurance policy and the subsequent purchase over the next few months of 40% of the bank by Mochtar Riady. Clinton and Worthen escape a major scandal.

Mochtar's son James comes to Arkansas to manage Worthen as president. He bonds with Clinton.
Worthen is investigated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for improper loans to companies owned by the Riadys and Stephens. Also targeted: $14 million in loans to businesses owned by Liem Sieo Liong.


Harken Energy, with George W Bush on the board, gets rescued by aid from the BCCI-connected Union Bank of Switzerland in a deal brokered by Jackson Stephens. The deal was also pushed along by another Clinton friend, David Edwards. Edwards will bring BCCI-linked investors into Harken deals including Abdullah Bakhsh who purchases $10 million in shares of Stephens dominated Worthen Bank.


Stephens helps Tyson Foods in a hostile takeover of Holly Farms.


James Riady takes over operations of a new branch of the Lippo Bank, working with Hong Kong Lippo executive, John Huang. China Resources Company Ltd begins buying stock in the branch, Hong Kong Chinese Bank, at 15% below market value. Intelligence sources later report that the firm is really a front for Chinese military intelligence.

Warren Stephens raises $50,000 overnight so Clinton can buy TV time in his struggling re-election bid.


With Jackson Stephens, Mochtar Riady buys BCCI's former Hong Kong subsidiary from its liquidators.


Stephens Inc. employees give Clinton more than $100,000 for his presidential campaign. The Worthen Bank gives him a $2 million line of credit and Mochtar Riady loans him millions more, allowing the cash-strapped candidate to finish the primaries.


January: Huang and James Riady give $100,000 to Clinton's inaugural fund. 

In February, Huang arranges private meeting between Mochtar Riady and Clinton at which Riady  presses for renewal of China's 'most favored nation" status and a relaxation of economic sanctions.

In June, China's 'most favored nation' status is renewed. Price being paid by China Resources company Ltd. for Lippo's Hong Kong Chinese Bank jumps to 50% above market value. The Riadys make $163 million.


Webster Hubbell, a former Rose law firm partner -- although not known for skill in Asian trade matters -- goes to work for a Lippo Group affiliate after being forced out of the Clinton administration and before going to jail. Hubbell represented both Worthen and James Riady during the 1980s.


Kevin Landrigan, Telegraph, NH - Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark vows to close the corporate tax loophole that allowed Tyco International Inc. of Exeter to move its headquarters to Bermuda and avoid paying millions in federal taxes. Clark was managing director of merchant banking for the Stephens Group Inc. of Little Rock, Ark., when the company bought more than 50,000 shares of Tyco stock. Stephens then increased its investment by another 25,000 shares during the first three months of this year.

Thursday, July 3

Why LePage is America's dumbest governor

Brad Blog - We've long regarded Maine's Republican Gov. Paul LePage as giving Arizona's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer a run for her money as the dumbest Governor in the nation, if not the dumbest in history.

But it appears that LePage has been making a real run for that latter title all along.

As early as 2011, we took notice just after LePage took office and immediately ordered the removal of a mural from the state's Dept. of Labor because it was too pro-uniony, or something. That and other "Tea Party"-ish behavior by the then new Governor resulted in a bunch of state Senators from his own party asking him, publicly, to tone it down a bit. "Were these isolated incidents, we would bite our collective tongues," the Republican lawmakers wrote in an op-ed at the time. "But, unfortunately, they are not isolated but frequent. Therefore, we feel we must speak out."

You may also recall late last year when we highlighted the brain trust that is LePage as he was actually celebrating the melting Arctic, on the premise that it opened up the Northern Passage as a shipping lane for Maine --- despite the fact that global warming, in addition to threatening the entirety of human civilization in the not too distant future, is already posing more immediate dangers to Maine's maple syrup and shrimping industries, among others.

"Everybody looks at the negative effects of global warming, but with the ice melting, the Northern Passage has opened up," LePage explained, according to the Bangor Daily News at the time. "So maybe, instead of being at the end of the pipeline, we're now at the beginning of a new pipeline."

But our biggest clue about the guy, who is now running for re-election, probably should have come after his April 2013 claim that a new wind turbine at a Maine university --- one that had produced some 680,000 kilowatt hours of clean electricity in its first year (saving the school about $100,000, not to mention the reduction of dangerous CO2 output) --- actually had "a little electric motor that turns the blades."

"I’m serious," the Governor insisted during his remarks to the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce that month. "They have an electric motor so they can show people that wind power works. Unbelievable."

Well, now we may have an explanation --- of sorts --- for LePage's storied idiocy...or, at least his proud public display of same. According to the first chapter of journalist Mike Tipping's forthcoming book, As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine, until his own staff finally had to step in to put a stop to it, LePage had been meeting about once a month --- reportedly for several hours each time --- with a group of Rightwing "Sovereign Citizen" extremists and taking great interest, and even action, on their remarkable theories, legal and conspiratorial and otherwise.

While the Governor, according to Tipping, "was later forced to recant his accusation" about the wind turbine, "after his remarks made national news...he did not reveal the source of the false conspiracy theory." Tipping does so. On that relatively innocent, if highly illustrative, windmill conspiracy and much more that is far less innocent.

You've got to read the amazing full chapter, as published at Talking Points Memo this week, to fully appreciate the madness in play here, particularly for a public official of LePage's high office.