PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – A Nobel Peace Prize winner will deliver the University of Maine School of Law’s second annual Justice for Women Lecture. The school says Leymah Gbowee (LAY-maw BOH-ee) of Liberia will deliver her speech on Wednesday. Gbowee is an activist who led a peace movement that helped bring an end to the Liberian civil war in 2003. She was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman, a female icon of the protest movement in Yemen. Gbowee’s lecture will be held at the Westbrook Middle School. More than 800 people have registered. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required.
An apartment house fire in Jay has left nine people homeless.A discarded cigarette is being blamed for it.Firefighters responded around 12:30 p.m. Sunday to reports of a building burning out of control.Authorities say it started on a back porch on the first floor.The building was total loss.Nobody was hurt.
On Friday the governor made it official: bars can open early on Saint Patrick’s Day.State lawmakers passed the bill Thursday, and on Friday, Governor LePage signed off on it.State law had banned the sale of liquor on Sundays between 6:00-9:00AM.The new law lets bars and restaurants serve liquor as early as 6:00 on Sunday mornings that happen to be Saint Patrick’s Day, like this Sunday for instance.
Governor LePage’s administration actively courted right-leaning media during the contentious debate last month over a request by the Bangor Daily News for public records on Maine’s concealed-weapons permit holders.The governor’s spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett sent emails to talk show hosts sympathetic to gun owners. Those emails were obtained by the Portland Press Herald through a Freedom of Information request.One message went to an associate producer at Fox News in New York City, with a request to forward it to Bill O’Reilly.Another went to Howie Carr, a conservative radio host in Boston.Bennett says she was doing her job to make sure the governor’s message is “heard loud and clear.”
BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) – Brunswick’s Planning Board has approved a zoning change that opens the door for Bowdoin College to convert a former assisted-living facility near campus to student housing. The college agreed late last year to buy the building on Harpswell Road, but needed the town to change the zoning to turn it into a dormitory. The board this week voted 4-1 to approve the change. The Times Record (http://bit.ly/ZtuE2S ) reports that a Bowdoin official says acquisition and renovation of the building is part of the college’s ongoing effort to consolidate students who are now scattered around town. The college has assured neighbors that the dorm will be “chemical-free quiet” housing. The zoning change now goes to the town council for a public hearing.
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – A Gorham man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for molesting three children. Michael Emerson on Thursday pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful sexual contact with children younger than 12. Authorities say the 48-year-old Emerson molested two girls and a boy at his second home on Frye Island last summer. In deal reached with prosecutors, Emerson was sentenced to 25 years in prison with all but eight years suspended, followed by 10 years of probation. He must also register as a sex offender. Emerson apologized in court and called himself a “pedophile.” The mother of one victim said in a victim impact statement that Emerson is a “repulsive, disgusting person.” Another victim said in a letter read by a relative that she felt “scared” and “ashamed.”
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – A Maine legislative committee is taking up a bill that would allow the Transportation Department to raise the speed limit on Interstate 295 from Scarborough to West Gardiner to 75 miles per hour. The speed limit on that southern Maine stretch is now 65 mph. Democratic Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco is sponsor of the bill, which will be reviewed Friday morning by the Transportation Committee. In 2011, the Legislature passed a law allowing the speed limit to go up to 75 mph on Interstate 95 from Old Town to Houlton in northern Maine.
Advocates for tax reform joined lawmakers in Augusta on Thursday to launch a grassroots campaign they say will fix Maine’s broken tax system.The group says it’s unfair that Maine’s wealthiest, and large corporations, pay a lower tax rate than low and middle income Mainers.The group announced the launch of the “Fair Share Campaign.”They say the path to a fair budget begins with a fair tax system.”Right now, those that have the least are paying the most,” said Bangor Democratic Representative, Adam Goode, “and those that have the means aren’t paying anything close to their fair share. The past few years have made this disparity worse with more tax cuts for the wealthy and more cutbacks to education and healthcare.”To learn more about the campaign, go to Facebook and search for “Fair Share Now.”
If you’re ready for spring, you’re probably ready for some ice cream, too. Gifford’s ice cream stands open for the season on Friday.Gifford’s has locations in Auburn, Bangor, Farmington, Skowhegan, and Waterville.If you’re going to head down, plan some time to do it. On past years, the lines have been long on opening day.
Bills are starting to pile up on the governor’s desk.Bills dealing with the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program and the opening day for smelt season are among the ones that have passed but are yet to be signed.”You know I’m not 100% sure what the governor’s hang up is at this point,” said Democratic Representative from Skowhegan, Jeff McCabe. “There was some discussion whether this was having to do with the liquor contract or not. You know we’ve had a public hearing there. We’re willing to discuss that issue and move forward. The bills are on his desk and we’re hopeful he’ll sign them so we can continue doing other important work.”If the governor does not veto the bills, they’ll become law in ten days without his signature.
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – A former Republican legislator tabbed to serve on the board of Maine’s Dirigo Health Agency by Gov. Paul LePage has withdrawn his nomination and criticized what he called a “coordinated attack” from three liberal groups that opposed him. Jonathan McKane said Tuesday at a hearing before the Legislature’s Insurance Committee that the Maine Education Association, the Maine Peoples Alliance and Consumers for Affordable Healthcare had subjected him to “ridiculous, baseless insults” at a hearing last week. McKane, a former state representative from Newcastle, is a longtime critic of Dirigo Health. The agency coordinates affordable health care coverage to eligible small employers, the self-employed and individuals. LePage has indicated he would leave the board seat vacant if McKane was not nominated.
BATH, Maine (AP) – Maine State Police say a Bath man has been arrested on charges of dealing the highly addictive drug methamphetamine near an elementary school. Police say 35-year-old Mark Corson was charged Wednesday with aggravated trafficking of meth, after agents searched his apartment and found evidence of a methamphetamine lab. A team from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency searched the Dummer Street apartment in protective clothing around noon on Wednesday. Police say the charge was elevated because the apartment is near the Newell Elementary School. Officials say this is the fourth suspected meth lab found in Maine this year. The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency says 13 meth labs were discovered last year.
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is speaking in Maine on his department’s efforts to improve childhood nutrition and prevent obesity. Vilsack is speaking Thursday at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center on the Agriculture Department’s initiatives to elevate the national dialogue in promoting proper nutrition and increased physical activity for America’s youth. Vilsack is also planning to visit the U.S. Coast Guard station in South Portland, where he will underscore the importance of proper nutrition to America’s military readiness. The USDA says only one out of four Americans between 17 and 24 are eligible to serve in the armed forces, in part because many are overweight or obese.
A University of Maine at Machias professor receives a boost for shellfish research. Doctor Brian Beal has received a $100,000 grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund. The money will let researchers examine the production potential for blue mussels and arctic surfclams using current methods and testing new ones. Beal says it could create new economic opportunities for the shellfishing industry in downeast Maine.
What was expected to be a poor shrimping season has turned out to be even worse than anticipated.The catch has been tiny, resulting in short supply and higher prices for consumers.In the first seven weeks, shrimpers had caught less than 600,000 pounds, putting the season on course for the smallest shrimp harvest in more than thirty years.Just two years ago, fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts caught 13 million pounds.
The president of the University of Southern Maine says the school must trim $5 million from its budget, which could mean staff cuts.The president set prelimary cuts of $3.2 million from academic affairs and $1.8 millon from adminstration, and she’s asked deans and department heads to offer recommendations.
A bill to let bars open early Sunday for Saint Patrick’s Day is stalled in the Maine House.It won’t go into effect in time unless it can get two-thirds of the House, and the governor, to support it by Thursday, and the governor has threatened to stop any bill until a hospital repayment bill is passed.Usually bars and restaurants can sell alcohol starting at 9:00 Sunday mornings.Saint Patrick’s Day is a huge day for such establishments, and it happens to fall on a Sunday this year.
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – A Portland man charged with taking part in the kidnapping and gang rape of a woman last summer has been denied lower bail by a judge. An attorney for 23-year-old Mohammed Abdi told a judge in asking for bail to be lowered from $200,000 to $10,000 on Tuesday that the sexual encounter was consensual. Abdi’s attorney said the woman’s account of the alleged assault is contradicted by the evidence. Abdi was tied to the woman through DNA. The Portland Press Herald (http://bit.ly/ZlHcJE) reports that the prosecutor argued against the bail reduction, saying Abdi has a history of failing to show up for court dates. Authorities say the 32-year-old woman met her alleged assailants during a night out at a Portland club and several men raped her at gunpoint. ___ Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Prosecutors and the defense are gathering for settlement discussions in the case of a Zumba fitness instructor charged with prostitution and tax and welfare violations. The closed-door settlement conference focusing on Alexis Wright is taking place Wednesday in Cumberland County Superior Court. Any discussions are likely to stay private unless a formal plea agreement is reached. The 30-year-old Wright is accused of conspiring with insurance agent Mark Strong Sr. to run a sophisticated prostitution business in Kennebunk in which she kept detailed financial records and recorded the sex acts via hidden camera. A similar settlement conference failed to avert a trial for Strong, who was convicted last week and will be sentenced later this month.
A spike in gun sales has created a bit of a problem.The industry is running out of ammo.Ammuniton seems to be flying off store shelves because so many people are buying guns right now.”A lot of stores, us included, can’t supply that kind of quantity of ammunition to every customer that comes in the door,” said manager of Maine Military Supply, Ryan Nyer. “You have a few people: they buy a lot more than they need. They hold on to it. They don’t shoot it, and then it creates that demand and there’s a lack of it on the shelves now.”It seems gun sales went up last year after the December school shooting in Connecticut and the presidential election.Ryan says that this has happened a number of times in the past.He says just to be patient, and historically, the lack of ammo issue will resolve itself in time.