The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.


Tuesday June 23: Afternoon edition


Portland Press Herald - A handful of city police officers will be equipped with Taser electric stun guns for a three-month trial and evaluation period starting later this summer. . . [Chief] Craig says he will first seek to borrow the weapons, but if he cannot, he wants to buy 10 of them using federal stimulus [sic] grants . . . Tasers have critics, including Amnesty International. Nonviolent suspects have been targeted in some jurisdictions, and in other cases, use of the devices has immediately preceded a suspect's death. . . The tasers that the city will try out include a video and audio recorder that is activated whenever the devices are used.

Wikipedia - A report from a meeting of the United Nations Committee against Torture states that "The Committee was worried that the use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use."

Taser International claims that Tasers are safe, but critics disagree, citing the number of deaths occurring after Taser use. Amnesty International has documented over 245 deaths that occurred after the use of Tasers. Amnesty International Canada and other civil liberties organizations have argued that a moratorium should be placed on Taser use until research can determine a way for them to be safely used. . .

Although tests on police and military volunteers have shown Tasers to function appropriately on a healthy, calm individual in a relaxed and controlled environment, Amnesty International says that they "do not take into account real life use of Tasers by law enforcement agencies, such as repeated or prolonged shocks and the use of restraints".

Police officers in at least five US states have filed lawsuits against Taser International claiming they suffered serious injuries after being shocked with the device during training classes.

While their intended purpose is to circumvent the use of lethal force such as guns, the actual deployment of Tasers by police in the years since Tasers came into widespread use is claimed to have resulted in more than 180 deaths as of 2006. It is still unclear whether the Taser was directly responsible for the cause of death.

In December 2008, in light of extensive testing of Tasers, many Canadian police agencies, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have suspended use of either all Tasers or just those manufactured before 2006.

Taser and its supporters in the police community regularly attribute the cause of deaths that follow Tasering to "excited delirium", a term for a phenomenon in which agitated or disturbed individuals respond in an irrational, bizarre, and hyperactive manner when confronted or apprehended by police. Critics argue that as this alleged condition exists only in relation to being apprehended by police, its existence is dubious. Grame Norton, director of the public safety project of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argues that "Anytime you see a specific condition being referenced in only one context, it raises serious question." Other critics assert that the term is used to mask police brutality. While the term "excited delirium" has been accepted by the National Association of Medical Examiners, in the United States it has been rejected by the American Medical Association while the Canadian Medical Association Journal dismisses it as a "pop culture phenomenon". The condition is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Police psychologist Mike Webster testified at a British Columbia inquiry into Taser deaths that police have been "brainwashed" by Taser International to justify "ridiculously inappropriate" use of the electronic weapon. He called "excited delirium" a "dubious disorder" used by Taser International in its training of police.

Tasers and other electroshock weapons have been used at political protests such as those by the anti-globalization movement in the United States, France, Switzerland, Germany, and several other countries. Members of the movement, as well as world press are concerned that the technology, and other "less-lethal" weapons, are likely to become tools for suppressing legitimate protest associated with imposition of "neo-liberal economic policies". Thomas Gebauer, of the German non-governmental organization Medico International, describes "non-lethal weapons" as a symbol of "the growing repressive character of European and North American governments" willing to suppress protests against the spreading social injustice.


Bangor Daily News - With the proposal to repeal the state's school consolidation law now dead in the Legislature, the group that initiated the repeal petition plans to work during the summer to develop a campaign strategy to rally support for overturning the law at the polls in November. "We'll be putting a group of people together to plan a strategy that will be implemented on September 1," said Lawrence "Skip" Greenlaw, chairman of the Maine Coalition to Save Schools, the group that collected 61,193 signatures on the citizen-initiated petition to repeal the school consolidation law passed in 2007. . . Gov. John Baldacci has promised to actively work to defeat the repeal effort. . . Greenlaw renewed his criticism that the law has not produced the $36 million in savings that the administration had promised. Although state education officials have said that reorganized districts are finding unanticipated savings as they reorganize, the total projected savings statewide has been calculated at about $1.6 million. . . . More than 120 school units, many in rural areas, have not complied with the law, many of them because voters rejected the reorganization plan developed by regional planning committees, despite the penalty of reduced state subsidy included in the law.

Bike Maine - The League of American Bicyclists has named Maine as the third most bike-friendly state in the country. Maine rose three spots in the 2009 ranking, based on a 75-item survey covering legislation, education, policies and programs, infrastructure, evaluation and planning, enforcement and efforts to encourage people to bike for transportation and recreation. . . Maine was number six in the League's initial ranking of Bicycle Friendly States last year. Washington and Wisconsin have held the number one and number two spots, respectively, for both years.

Portland Press Herald - Measurable rain has fallen 13 out of the first 21 days this month, thanks to a stalled weather pattern. . . "There is a ridge over the center of the country, with a trough on the northwest coast and a trough on the northeast coast. Unless that moves, we are stuck," said meteorologist Butch Roberts.

WSCH - Superintendent Suzanne Lukas of School Administrative District #6 addressed parents and students upset by administration's crackdown at the Bonny Eagle High School graduation. "What we experienced that evening as a community was a clash of values over what a commencement ceremony should or should not be," said Lukas. At the Bonny Eagle High School graduation on June 12th, Lukas refused to give Justin Denney his diploma after he displayed cords and bowed to the audience. . . Parents were critical of how the discipline was handled. Many of them felt the administration did not show the enough respect to many of the students. Lukas said she was simply applying the rules the school board had offered up students had agreed to. She did not apologize for the way she handled the situation. At the conclusion of the meeting, the school board voted to hold a performance appraisal of the superintendent. Includes video of Lukas

Bangor Daily News - More than 56,000 applicants signed up for last week's moose-permit lottery, and about 3,000 of those participants ended up earning their permits during the Fort Kent drawing. . . This year's lottery had about 12 percent fewer applicants than the 2008 lottery did.

1,051 adult salmon returned to the Veaie Dam this year, a little below last year's 1,096 but well above the ten year average of 497for the same date

This is news because it is news. The Maine Wildlife Park in Gray is urging people not to 'rescue' animals in the wild and leave them at the park. Says one official: "They literally have been kidnapped."

Along with the bill regulating the recycling of compact fluorescent bulbs, Governor Baldacci has signed legislation that "creates a statewide registry for those who want to be notified before local farmers apply pesticides using either aircraft or fanlike machines known as air carriers. . . Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said while the bill was less than what his organization had wanted, he was pleased the state was moving forward. Agricultural groups were successful in fighting a proposal that would have required annual notification of neighbors and dramatically tightened Maine's laws for pesticide drift."


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