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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.

7/15/09

Wednesday July 15

FAIR POINT CONT'D

David Brooks, Nashua Telegraph - Regulators in Vermont are questioning whether Fair Point should be allowed to continue providing telephone and Internet service in that state because of concerns about its service problems – concerns that have led New Hampshire regulators to look anew at the company's progress. These actions, which are echoed in Maine, were prodded by a consultant's report that cast doubt on Fair Point's relatively optimistic assessment of its own service improvements.

The Feb. 13 report from Liberty Consulting Group was filed with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, and equivalent bodies in Vermont and Maine, on Tuesday. PUC Telecommunications Division Director Kathryn Bailey noted that Liberty "points out inconsistencies" in Fair Point's self-assessment. . .

Meredith Hatfield, the state's consumer advocate, said the consultant report underlines her concerns about Fair Point's report on its progress since the Feb. 1 "cutover" in which it took over all of Verizon's computer systems.

"Not only did they have a rougher time with cutover than they thought they would have, but that was months ago and problems continue," Hatfield said. "What is the problem: Is it management, (computer) systems, financial, a combination of those – and what is the plan for improving operations?"

Vermont regulators took a sterner tone following the Liberty report. A petition filed Tuesday by the Vermont Department of Public Service says, "Without an immediate and substantive showing on the part of Fair Point . . . it may not be in the best interest of Vermont that Fair Point continue to be allowed to operate a business in Vermont."

It asks that state's equivalent of the Public Utilities Commission to schedule an investigation of Fair Point's operation there.

Fair Point bought Verizon's wire lines in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine for $2.3 billion last year and took over all the systems Feb. 1.

Fair Point cautioned in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that unless it can delay interest payments on a half-billion dollars of those bonds, it may face bankruptcy.

Last week, Fair Point released a status report, in which it claimed success solving many of its problems, such as reducing the time residential customers were on hold when calling for help.

WHAT JOHN ENSIGN, HILLARY CLINTON, JOHN BALDACCI & THE HONDURAN RIGHT WING HAVE IN COMMON

Wayne Madsen Report - The extramarital sex scandal surrounding Senator John Ensign (R-NV) is increasingly involving the Fellowship Foundation, also known as "The Family," and, as previously reported by WMR, "the Christian Mafia.". . .

Adding to the Fellowship's perception as a powerful and secretive organization is its ownership of a boarding house and conference center around the corner from the U.S. Capitol at 133 C Street, SE, Washington, DC. At any given time, eight members of the Senate and House have resided at the C Street Center where they sleep, pray, and eat for a mere $600 a month. . .

Past and current residents of the C Street Center have included former Representatives Steve Largent (R-OK) and Ed Bryant (R-TN), former Representative and current Democratic Governor of Maine John E. Baldacci, Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) (Brownback is also a member of the right-wing Fascist-oriented Opus Dei sect within the Catholic Church), Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), John Ensign (R-NV), and Tom Coburn (R-OK),Representatives Mike Doyle (R-PA), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Zach Wamp (R-TN), and former Senator Don Nickles (R-OK). . .

One of the more interesting affiliates of the Fellowship is Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY. . .

It is not only the Fellowship's involvement with the Ensign and Sanford sex scandals that has raised eyebrows but also Secretary of State Clinton's milquetoast response to the military coup in Honduras that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, a progressive. The National Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the Fellowship, has, in the past, attracted the right-wing elite of Honduras, including Zelaya's predecessor, Ricardo Maduro, who was backed by the same Christian evangelical forces that forced Zelaya from power.
MUCH MORE

GEORGE MITCHELL TESTIFIES IN TRIAL OF FRIEND ON BRIBERY CHARGES

Village Voice - Oil and glory, millions of dollars stuffed in suitcases, a fugitive investor protected by Chechen mobsters, former Senator and Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell, and a Central Asian president who was who was willing to give away a purported half of his country's oil wealth for $350 million in cash -- what more could you want out of international bribery scheme?

After a month-long trial held in the federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan, a jury found multimillionaire handbag manufacturer Frederic Bourke guilty of breaking laws that prohibit companies from bribing officials of foreign governments.

Along with Viktor Kozeny, an investor buddy who was his neighbor at a ski residence in Aspen, Bourke schemed to pay millions to the government of Azerbaijan in order to gain control of the state-owned oil company there. . .

For the Azerbaijan venture, Kozeny raised hundreds of millions in capital from individual investors like Bourke (who lost $180 million of his own cash) and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, from hedge funds such as Omega Capital, and from the private equity unit of the now troubled A.I.G. (an A.I.G. employee was originally indicted by the government in 2005, but charges against him were dropped). . .

Current Obama envoy to the Middle East and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell testified at Bourke's trial. The two had become friends years back when the 75-year-old Mitchell was a senator, and Bourke and a member of the Rockefeller family were trying to raise money for a state park in Maine. Mitchell, who lost $200,000 in the scheme but was not accused of wrongdoing, said he knew the venture was "risky." But, he added, the potential for high return "justified" the risk. He also said that, despite not being told about the bribes, he still considers Bourke a close friend.

MAINE NOTES

Maine Public Broadcasting
- - A new report from the Maine Development Foundation has concluded that the state's economy and quality of life hinges on improving roads and bridges. Ed Cervone, a program director at the organization, says the analysis indicates that poor roads force Mainers to pay nearly $260 million dollars in automobile repairs each year and that as many as a third of all fatal automobile crashes could be linked to poor road design. . . Cervone says that while Maine has paid for road repairs through taxes collected of gasoline sales, those revenues are not keeping up with the demand for road improvements. "Traditionally, what's done around the country is the gas tax has been the primary revenue source for these things. " This year, the state cancelled $30 million dollars worth of road repairs due to declining gas tax revenue

Daily Kos - The North Woods of Maine are rugged lands of steep mountains, tiny jewels of lakes, rushing clear water, and abundant wildlife, but very few people. . . The proposed Maine Woods National Park & Preserve would be bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite put together, the second biggest park in the entire United States (the first is in Alaska), and about a quarter of the entire state of Maine. The land would encompass both a national park and a national preserve (exact boundaries between the two have yet to be determined), where "some even of the hunter race" -- hunters, snowmobilers, and anglers -- could engage in their traditional recreation. The park would surround Baxter State Park and its crowning glory of Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine. A New England group, Restore, has been working on and off since 1992 to create the Maine Woods National Park. The Park would be a place where the eastern timberwolf, Canadian lynx, and moose roam freely, trout and Atlantic salmon swim in clear water, and old growth forests go on forever. RESTORE

Freelane writer Patrick Quinlan of Gorham is running as a Green candidate for governor . . . A few stats from the Bangor Daily News:
Jonathan Carter received 4.3 percent and 9.3 percent of the votes in his two runs for governor. Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth received 9.6 percent of the vote in her gubernatorial bid as a Green in 2006 and 6.8 percent in 1998, when she was forced to run as an independent after the party lost state recognition.
Press Herald - Sinclair Broadcast Group, the parent company of local TV station WGME 13, says it may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because of high debt and the slump in advertising revenues that has plagued the journalism industry. Portland-based WGME 13 is a CBS affiliate that broadcasts in southern Maine and eastern New Hampshire. The station is without a general manager. Terry Cole, the most recent general manager, was transferred to Sinclair station WEAR ABC 3 in Pensacola, Fla., according to a message on the station's answering machine. No one else at WGME 13 was immediately available to comment.

WMTW - There are still shellfish on the market, and state health officials have some important safety reminders if you are planning to eat it. Officials said you should buy your shellfish from a certified dealer. Don't eat any clams or mussels you find floating in the water. If you have lobster, don't eat the tomalley.

Editor & Publisher - The new owner of the Portland Press Herald in Maine and three other papers previously owned by Blethen Maine Newspapers is asking city officials for financial help to keep the newspaper in Portland, the Press Herald reported Wednesday. Portland City Manager Joe Gray and Portland economic development director Greg Mitchell met last Thursday with Bob Baldacci, a consultant for the newspaper's new owner, MaineToday Media Inc. Mitchell later met with Rory Connor, son of Publisher Richard Connor, at the site of office space the newspaper wants to lease in Portland, the story said. Richard Connor told the paper Tuesday that the company wants the same kind of financial incentive the city would give to any company that was considering locating in Portland.

Kennebec Journal - The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop can operate once again in a new building at the same Route 3 location, the Planning Board decided.

Sun Journal - Saying it was time for a new direction, city councilors on Tuesday ended Jim Bennett's tenure as Lewiston's top official. The council shocked a room full of constituents and city staff, voting to buy out the remainder of Bennett's contract. The decision came at the beginning of a busy City Council agenda and after two executive sessions. . . Councilors couldn't say specifically what pushed them to make their decision. . . Bennett disappeared into his office immediately after the vote, emerging later to leave. He was accompanied by former city councilors Mark Paradis, Renee Bernier and Normand Rousseau.

The Postal Service is reconsidering its plan to remove the only collection mailbox in Otisfield, Maine, after an outpouring of support for the device. Reports the Sun Journal - "We were told it's a done deal. You can't do anything. Well, you don't tell that to Americans," said Town Clerk Sharon Matthews . . . Matthews said the 1,750 residents in town deserve to have their collection box, . . . have to drive to the Oxford Post Office. . . When she and others discovered a sign on the mailbox on June 30 saying the box would be picked up in 10 days, they went into action. Calls were made to state Sen. David Hastings, R-Oxford, and U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, along with a call to Mike Doyle, customer relations at the U.S. Postal Service in Portland. . . On Monday, the Postal Service sent a man to pick up the collection box, Matthews said. She and Administrative Assistant Marianne Izzo-Morin ran outside to secure the mailbox. "We were ready to chain ourselves to that," said Matthews, looking at a love seat that had been pulled over to the mailbox. "Marianne yelled, 'No! No!' as the pickup man tried to take the mailbox. Then television cameras arrived as if on cue, Matthews said. "Timing is everything." The pickup man made a phone call and drove off, Matthews said.

Maine vinyards

A 17th century archeological dig in Woolwich

Wolfe's Neck Farm losing its beef herd

Police to carry Tasers for trial period

MAINE STATS

From 2005 to 2007, Maine ranked fifth worst in the nation in the percentage of households that can't afford enough to eat. And the economy has fallen since 2007 and hunger rates have risen. It's very likely that even more Maine residents now struggle to feed their families. One in five Maine children lives in a household struggling with hunger

MAINE BOOKS

Backyard Maine: Local Essays by Edgar Allen Beem

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