For the period: May 6-12, 2008
Welcome to MTWLWLW, our weekly review of the top stories (and some of lesser quality) from around the state. This past week's news was dominated by a couple of bombs - both of them, as it turned out, duds - as well as a new retail rivalry, a scientific debate, a disaster declaration and a court decision on how much of a splash you can make this summer.
The first bomb came in a report that the Department of Homeland Security wants to use the old Waldo-Hancock
bridge between Prospect and Verona for … well, we're not exactly sure what they want it for, but it sounds explosive. According to a story in the Republican Journal, Homeland Security honchos have contacted the state about using the suspension bridge for tests on how terrorists might attack such a structure. Do they plan to blow it up? Fly planes into it. Clog it with tourist traffic? The rusting hulk does have to be removed eventually, but it doesn't appear that massive explosions would be the most sensible way to accomplish that task, given its proximity to the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge.
The second bomb was a verbal one dropped by author Stephen King
. In remarks on literacy delivered at the Library of Congress on April 4, King warned illiterates (you have to wonder how many people who can't read are paying attention to events at the Library of Congress) that their career choices were limited to "the Army, Iraq, I don't know, something like that." A conservative blogger picked up on the comment, interpreting it as a slam at the military, which prompted a U.S. Army spokesperson to defend our fighting forces as avid readers with literacy rates above those of the general population. Some troop greeters at the Bangor International Airport removed King memorabilia from the terminal room they use, although the stuff was restored a day later. In a May 7 interview with the Bangor Daily News, King said he merely meant to convey that being unable to read limited ones career choices. "Of course I support the troops," he said. "In this country, there's an equating of intelligence with elitism, and elitism with being unpatriotic. But smart people love the U.S., too." Hard to say which smart people he was referring to.
A rumbling of a different kind seems to be emanating from Scarborough, where the new 125,000-square-foot Cabela's store is set to open this week. The outdoor recreation company based in Nebraska has purchased double-page spreads in newspapers from Bangor to Boston to promote the event, and local officials are expecting big crowds and traffic tie-ups. Also, big competition. Up the road in Freeport, Cabela's retail rival L.L. Bean is publicly denying it's worried about the interloper, but you gotta wonder.
The shopping landscape may evolve, but as far as Athens School Board director Matthew Linkletter is concerned, plants and animals don't. Linkletter has urged School Administrative District 59 to ban the teaching of evolution in science classes
because, "You can't show, observe or prove [it]". Actually, you can do all three. Linkletter appears to have confused evolution, which is about as solid a scientific fact as gravity, with natural selection, Charles Darwin's theory of how evolution works. Here's another fact: According to officials with the state Department of Education, the Maine Learning Results program requires schools to teach evolution.
One of the last times the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) made news in Maine, it was storing tons of ice in Portland in case it was needed in post-Katrina New Orleans. We can only hope the organization has, uh, evolved since then, because FEMA officials are on the ground in Aroostook County assessing the damage done by the early May flooding on the St. John River. President George W. Bush declared The County a disaster area
on May 9, allowing homeowners and businesses to apply for federal aid to pay for the millions of dollars in damages - a complete estimate has yet to be completed - caused by the rising waters. And if anyone needs ice - oh, sorry, it's stored in New Orleans.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court overturned
a lower court ruling on May 8 and upheld the state law allowing municipalities to ban Jet Skis and other personal water craft on lakes and ponds (pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=186541&ac=phnws). Mark Haskell of Camden, the owner of a $13,000 Sea Doo, had challenged the law as being arbitrary and unfair because it singled out one class of watercraft. But the unanimous justices found the machines posed "a unique risk" and their operators had no fundamental right to kick up wakes.
In other news worthy of a sentence or two, the state's new law requiring voter approval
of local school budgets hasn't excited the public. Turnout percentages in most cities and towns that have held referenda have been in the single digits …
A Portland City Council committee is considering a proposal to ban smoking
in outdoor eating areas …
Portland Museum of Art director Daniel O'Leary has resigned to oversee the museum's Winslow Homer
studio restoration project …
Oxford County commissioners are exploring the idea of creating a racino with 1,500 slot machines
at the Oxford County Fairgrounds …
Les Otten, former owner of the Sugarloaf and Sunday River ski areas and once a minority partner in the Boston Red Sox
, has a new gig. Otten has formed a company to sell sophisticated wood-pellet heating systems for Maine homes (pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=186520&ac=phnws) …
Lobstermen are griping that they're being forced to buy expensive new gear to protect endangered right whales
, while similar rules for the shipping industry have been put on hold …
And the first eight acts have been signed for the American Folk Festival in Bangor Aug. 22-24
. The performers include Jason Samuels Smith and Pandit Chitresh Das, a dance troupe that combines African-American tap with North Indian Kathak dance. Probably your only chance to see that this year.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .