Pentagon spent $28 million on ‘forest’ uniforms for soldiers fighting in the Afghan desert

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National and international headline

Pentagon spent $28 million on ‘forest’ uniforms for soldiers fighting in the Afghan desert

Afghan army soldiers take part in a military training at a training center in Herat province, western Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2016.
Nasim Seyamak | Xinhua | Sipa USA | TNS

The Pentagon may have wasted as much as $28 million buying pricy forest-camouflage uniforms for Afghan troops that don’t make sense in the largely desert country, according to a new government watchdog report.

The Defense Department bought more expensive, proprietary “woodland patterns” for the Afghan National Army uniforms instead of using the DOD’s own for free, even though only 2.1 percent of the country’s total land area is covered with forest, according to a review released Wednesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan, SIGAR.

The decision “was not based on an evaluation of its appropriateness for the Afghan environment,” SIGAR says, and added between $26 million and $28 million to the cost of procuring uniforms.

“As a result, neither DOD nor the Afghan government knows whether the (Afghan National Army) uniform is appropriate to the Afghan environment, or whether it actually hinders their operations by providing a more clearly visible target to the enemy,” the review states.

Interior Secretary Zinke wants to shed 4,000 staffers in budget cuts

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke smiles during a tour of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told lawmakers Wednesday that he plans to shrink his department’s sprawling workforce by 4,000 employees – about 8 percent of the full-time staff – as part of budget cuts to downsize the government’s largest public lands agency.

Zinke, testifying before a Senate panel on the White House’s proposed budget for the Department of the Interior for fiscal 2018, said he would rely on a combination of attrition, reassignments and buyouts to make the cuts. Depending on how fast and effective those strategies are, the department “will determine the need for further action to reduce staffing,” he said in prepared testimony, a reference to possible layoffs.

In back-to-back hearings Tuesday and Wednesday in which he defended the White House’s plan to slash his department’s budget by 13.4 percent, Zinke offered no additional details on whether the cuts will be concentrated in some offices or spread across Interior’s nine agencies.

USS Fitzgerald sailors sealed flooding compartments, unclear if survivors were inside

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan in photo received June 17, 2017.
US Navy

With water rushing around them, sailors aboard the beleaguered USS Fitzgerald faced an agonizing decision.

They had made several rescue attempts into the flooded portions of the 505-foot destroyer, which had collided off the coast of Japan with a much heavier container ship early morning Saturday. But they didn’t know how many of their fellow shipmates were still trapped inside or even alive, and time was running out.

The sailors either had to close off the flooded areas of the ship, or they feared the entire destroyer might go down, according to three active or former members of the Navy familiar with the incident.

They decided to seal the doors.

Hacking attempts on 21 states are tied to Russia

Samuel Liles, Acting Director of Cyber Division, Office of Intelligence and Analysis DHS, listens to testimonies about Russian interference in U.S. elections to the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, June 21, 2017.

People connected to the Russian government tried to hack election-related computer systems in 21 states, a Department of Homeland Security official testified Wednesday.

Samuel Liles, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division, said vote-tallying mechanisms were unaffected and that the hackers appeared to be scanning for vulnerabilities – which Liles likened to walking down the street and looking at homes to see who might be inside.

But hackers successfully exploited a “small number” of networks, Liles said, likening the act to making it through a home’s front door.

Local headlines

DHHS is paying more for child care — after saying it wasn’t allowed to

The LePage administration says it’s overhauling the way the state treats in-home child care businesses because it wants to reverse a long-term decline in their numbers.
Stock photo

The LePage administration is relaxing certain requirements for child care providers who look after children in their own homes, while unilaterally increasing the amount of money they receive for enrolling low-income children with state-funded subsidies.

The administration says it’s overhauling the way the state treats this particular type of child care setting because it wants to reverse a long-term decline in the number of in-home child care providers and make affordable child care more widely available in rural areas.

The Department of Health and Human Services is providing this financial boost to in-home child care operations, in the form of increased child care subsidy rates from the state, while leaving subsidy rates mostly untouched for the larger child care centers that enroll the vast majority of kids.

And DHHS is providing the monetary boost after opposing repeated attempts to raise those rates and after saying last year it lacked the legal authority to increase them on its own.

Your guide to what stands between Maine and a state budget

Maine senators raise their right hands as they are sworn in during the first session of the 128th Legislature.
BDN file

With no budget deal in sight, the Maine Legislature has the state teetering on the edge of a government shutdown, which is likelier now than at any other time in the tumultuous era of Gov. Paul LePage.

And the path to averting one runs through the offers, counter-offers and attacks leveled at the State House during the past few months.

The legislative divide is mostly about education funding, but with LePage’s backing, House Republicans also want significant school reforms. But leaders in both parties have to mind their own divides and they’re here in part because of LePage, who will loom larger the later debate goes.

Former FBI profiler says Portland murder may have been work of uncaught serial killer

A police composite drawing of what authorities believe the Connecticut River Valley Serial Killer may look like.

A former federal criminal profiler is claiming a brutal 1989 murder on the Maine State Pier may have been the work of the so-called Connecticut River Valley Killer, according to a report Wednesday by the Portland Press Herald.

That serial killer, who has never been apprehended, is believed by authorities to be responsible for at least seven knife murders across New England between 1978 and 1987.

The 1989 murder of 16-year-old Jessica Briggs has returned to headlines this year as the man convicted of the crime, Anthony Sanborn, Jr., is claiming he’s been wrongly imprisoned and is seeking to overturn his 25-year-old conviction.

Sanborn’s legal team hopes the serial killer theory helps convince the court Sanborn himself was not guilty.

Maine legislator charged with OUI

Democratic Rep. Mick Devin

State Rep. Michael G. “Mick” Devin, D-Newcastle, faces a misdemeanor charge of operating under the influence after his arrest in Damariscotta late Tuesday.

Damariscotta Police Officer Jim Dotson responded to a complaint of a vehicle driving erratically at 10:20 p.m., according to a news release from the Damariscotta Police Department. He stopped the vehicle and, after an investigation, arrested Devin for Class E OUI.

Devin, 54, was released on bail the same evening, according to interim Damariscotta Police Chief Jason Warlick. The amount and conditions of his bail were not available.

Lincoln man dies while working with explosives in his basement

A man died in an explosion in Lincoln on Wednesday, Maine State Police said in a news release.

The man died in the basement of his Stanhope Mill Road home, where neighbors and family members said he had been experimenting with explosives in recent months.

$50M bond referendum for research projects approved by Maine voters

The $50 million bond targets economic development, with $45 million earmarked for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades across industry sectors including biotechnology, aquaculture and marine technology, forestry, agriculture, information technology, precision manufacturing and composites.

The funding, which will be disbursed as competitive grants, will be administered by the Maine Technology Institute and will be matched with federal or other funds.

The remaining $5 million will be granted to small businesses in an effort to grow and benefit the state’s economy. That money will be administered by the Finance Authority of Maine through the Small Enterprise Growth Fund.

Living and events

It just got easier to eat more sustainably with this new cookbook

With recipes such as multigrain homemade pancake mix, creamy potato and spinach curry and pork and ricotta meatballs, this cookbook gives familiar foods a gourmet spin.
Dan Little | BDN

With so many farmers markets, community gardens, backyard gardens, homesteads and farms in Maine, sustainability is more than a trend here. It’s a way of life. But how can you live a little bit gentler when it comes to eating if you’re new to it?

That’s something a new cookbook, “Green Plate Special: Sustainable and Delicious Recipes” by Christine Burns Rudalevige, seeks to answer.

“If you look at my recipes in the book, they are interesting but also affordable and accessible at the same time,” Rudalevige said.

With recipes such as multigrain homemade pancake mix, creamy potato and spinach curry and pork and ricotta meatballs, this cookbook gives familiar foods a gourmet spin.

“Converting somebody to think more sustainably about eating is a bit of a slog — it’s one eater at a time,” Rudalevige said. “You have to attract them with really beautiful plates of food and then kind of back into ‘this is sustainable because.’”

Maine Whoopie Pie Festival seeking bakers and volunteers

The 2017 Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, scheduled for June 24, has several open slots remaining for bakers. This year, a couple of local bakers who have been with the festival since its inception were not able to make it due to prior commitments, leaving space for new talent to register.

Anyone interested in a booth at the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival should visit for information as soon as possible.

Last year, Dover-Foxcroft saw nearly 10,000 visitors come through the gates. For those who register as vendors or bakers, the day promises success.

Festival organizers are always on the lookout for volunteers, and this year is no different. Help is needed at the festival gates, to sell merchandise and to offer support to our vendors.

Layers in Time: Hands-on Exploration of Wabanaki Life and Culture Through the Ages

Every Tuesday in June from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the Abbe Museum at Sieur de Monts is hosting an archaeologist-led program where you can learn about Wabanaki material culture and the archaeological record in Maine.

This is a hands-on activity where you can touch artifacts and replicas while learning about Wabanaki cultural adaptations over the past 12,000 years.

This is a drop-in event so there’s no registration required!

Maine Summer Adventure Race set to take place in Jefferson

More than 50 teams will take part in the 2017 Maine Summer Adventure Race 7 a.m.-7 p.m. June 24, Hidden Valley Nature Center, 131 Egypt Road. The teams are composed of more than 115 individuals from 11 states, who will all get the chance to explore the Midcoast region by boat, bicycle and foot in a single day.

Now in its second year, the Maine Summer Adventure Race involves teams of two, three or four competing in a nonstop race including trail running or trekking, road and mountain biking, sea kayaking and orienteering. Teams will have to combine athleticism with strategy and navigation to guide themselves to as many checkpoints as possible within the race’s time limit.

Strawberry Festival slated at Grange in Freedom

A Strawberry Festival will be held 4-6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at Dirigo Grange Hall, Route 137.

S.W. Collins 5K Road Race & Fun Run

The annual S.W. Collins 5K Road & Fun race will be held June 25.

Registration is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at S.W. Collins Co. Caribou Yard. The 5K starts at 10:00 a.m., walkers start at 9:45 a.m., and kids Fun Run starts at 9:00 a.m.

Registration is $13 for adults, and the fee for the kids fun run is by donation. All proceeds will go to the Caribou Athletics Department.

Panel discussion on ‘Mountain Lions in Maine’ 

BookSpeak, a literary forum based in Damariscotta, will hold a panel discussion by scientists and environmental writers titled “Mountain Lions in Maine: Rewilding the Maine Woods” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, in the Darrows Barn at Damariscotta River Association’s Round Top Farm, 3 Round Top Lane.

Rt. 17 Ramblers to hold free concert at Rockport Masonic Center

The Rt. 17 Ramblers featuring Rosey Gerry are on tap and will play a free lawn concert at the Rockport Masonic Center from 6 to 7 p.m. June 28. The event is free to the public with pass the hat donations taken for the band. You are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the summer night and music.

History of Maine fire towers

Collin Brown

Bill Cobb, director of the Maine chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, will give a presentation about several historic fire towers Down East, including the much beloved Grand Lake Stream tower that sits atop Indian Hill. The tower was built in 1934, and it is currently the oldest standing, enclosed wooden tower in Maine, and potentially New England. Following the presentation, we will take a group walk up to the GLS Tower to examine the site.

The talk will be 5 to 7:30 p.m. June 30 at the Grand Lake Stream School Building, 15 Water St., in Grand Lake Stream.

195th Army Band to play Old Town concert series

Performing for audiences around the world and in their own backyard in Maine, the 195th Army Band’s Concert Band is carrying on a proud tradition of military bands past and present by presenting free patriotic public performances.

The band will perform 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 6 at Riverfront Park, North Main Street, in Old Town.

Red Cross and Old Town Fire Rescue partner to install free smoke alarms

The American Red Cross of Maine and the Old Town Fire Rescue Department are teaming up to install free smoke alarms in residents’ homes and teach people how to be prepared for home fires.

Old Town residents can sign up for the free smoke alarm installation by calling Ron Springel of the Red Cross at 874-1192, ext. 113. The Red Cross, the Old Town Fire Rescue Department and community volunteers will follow-up with the installation on July 22.

“Working smoke alarms are key to escaping a home fire safely. That early warning, along with a practiced escape plan to a designated meeting area and early notification to emergency services can greatly reduce death and injuries,” Capt. David Daniels of the Old Town Fire Rescue Department said.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy 2017 Maine Conference coming to Waterville

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Waterville will host the 2017 Appalachian Trail Conservancy Conference. It will be held at Colby College Aug.4-11.

The week-long event features over 240 hikes, numerous workshops, and excursions to local areas of interest.

Each evening there are exciting adventure presentations and stellar entertainment.

Business headlines

Lincoln lays out vision for redeveloping former mill site

Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, as seen on Sept. 28, 2015.
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN

Town officials say a deal between the bankrupt Lincoln Paper and Tissue and federal environmental regulators would tie up all of the property with cleanup efforts for at least 20 years.

The town of Lincoln filed an objection Tuesday to the settlement deal and laid out their vision for how they hope to see the site redeveloped for biomass energy production, light manufacturing or wood products businesses.

The town told the bankruptcy court that it also wants to take over the Mattanawcook Dam and that it would be willing to forgive some of the mill’s past due taxes to adjust terms of the settlement.

Portland software firm sold to California investors in $125 million deal

A California investment firm has purchased Portland software company Certify, in a $125 million deal that combines it with other expense management software firms.

K1 Investment Management Inc., of El Segundo, California, announced the deal Tuesday to buy Certify and three other companies to create what it said will be the second largest company providing expense management software, after Concur.

Anthem, Obamacare stalwart, pulls out of two more states

The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, Feb. 5, 2015.
Gus Ruelas | REUTERS

Anthem Inc., the stalwart that has stuck with Obamacare longer than most other large health insurers, is shrinking its participation in the program and pulling out of two more states’ marketplaces.

Anthem announced its exit from Wisconsin and Indiana on Wednesday, the deadline in many states for U.S. insurers to file their premium rates if they wish to participate in the Affordable Care Act next year. The insurer said it will leave the two individual insurance markets because uncertainty has become too great to continue offering plans.

Uber CEO resigns under investor pressure

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks to students during an interaction at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Mumbai, India, Jan. 19, 2016.
Danish Siddiqui | REUTERS

Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Travis Kalanick, co-founder of one of the most influential technology companies of its generation, resigned Tuesday under pressure from investors after a string of setbacks.

Kalanick’s departure caps a tumultuous period for the world’s largest ride-services company that has revolutionized the taxi industry and challenged transportation regulations worldwide.

Opinion headlines

Ryan O’Callaghan’s story shines light on cruelty of anti-LGBT laws

A sign from the annual Bangor pride parade in June 2016.
Micky Bedell | BDN

As O’Callaghan’s story shows, some LGBT Americans already view themselves as less than human, and they view their lives as not worth living.

Cruel initiatives meant to dehumanize LGBT Americans, to intensify their self doubt and drive them back into the closet, are morally reprehensible — and they can have deadly consequences.

They should have no place in America.

House Republicans can’t hold the budget hostage just to overturn a voter-approved law

Gabor Degre | BDN

This budget will require two-thirds support from both chambers of the Legislature to be enacted, so any of the four caucuses has the ability to hold the entire state hostage. But only one caucus — House Republicans — is choosing that scorched-earth approach. Democrats in the House and Senate as well as Republicans in the Senate are negotiating in good faith, but Rep. Ken Fredette, the House Republican leader, is leading a group of House Republicans who have refused to compromise.

If the Legislature does not give the governor a budget shortly, the state government will shut down July 1. A shutdown would represent failure of our government. It benefits absolutely no one, and it will harm many.

Trump’s silent surge in the Middle East and the slippery slope to war

The Afghan mountains are reflected in the visor of a U.S. Army Airborne CH-47 Chinook window gunner while flying toward a military base in eastern Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2014.

The United States used to debate the wars its military was fighting. But that’s not the case with the ongoing silent surge of U.S. military operations and arms sales across the Middle East.