How LePage’s public reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks evolved

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re on the heels of another whiplash day brought to us by Gov. Paul LePage on two fronts.

First, as reported by the BDN’s Michael Shepherd, there was the issue of Syrian refugees (here’s your soundtrack), which was ignited with a statement by President Barack Obama that the U.S. should prepare to accept some 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. LePage and his staff released this week’s radio address at about 1:40 p.m., which called that plan “irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, several Republican governors started to say that their states would not accept the refuges. At 4:30 p.m., LePage announced in a press release that he would join with those governors in condemning Syrians coming to Maine because “at least one of the attackers [in Paris] was a Syrian refugee.”

“I adamantly oppose any attempt by the federal government to place Syrian refugees in Maine and will take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening,” said LePage.

For context, Catholic Charities, which manages refugee resettlement in Maine, notes that just one Syrian refugee has resettled in Maine since the beginning of 2014 and that it would likely be at least a year before any other people fleeing the war in Syria would be able to take up residence in Maine.

This morning, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, said in a written statement he agrees with LePage and called on Obama to halt his refugee resettlement program until major immigration reforms can ensure that national security is protected.

“We need to make sure, for certain, that we are not admitting any individuals into our homeland who pose a threat to our communities and way of life,” said Poliquin.

The second LePage statement that caused a stir came during a media event at the State House, where LePage was helping kick off the Salvation Army’s annual kettle drive. I wasn’t there, but LePage reportedly said that a Mainer might have been among the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

This had some of us in the media scrambling for confirmation because that would be a big deal, if it were true. LePage said he’d heard the news from a family member but didn’t elaborate.

Poliquin also reportedly heard the statement, which caused him to check with the State Department.

“We received a response from them indicating that they are not aware of anyone from Maine being killed in Friday’s attacks,” wrote Poliquin in a statement to the media.

I asked LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett about the statement, to which she responded “we do not have official confirmation of a Mainer who was a victim in the terrorist attacks in Paris.”

Is it possible that there is a Mainer among the people who were wounded during the attacks? We don’t know. No one other than LePage has indicated there was. What we do know is that the governor made an unsubstantiated statement in public on a very serious issue. That’s a vast departure from normal protocol from public officials.

Even the Maine State Police, when they find a murder victim riddled with gunshot wounds, won’t tell the media the cause of death before it can be confirmed by the medical examiner. — Christopher Cousins

Pingree and Poliquin announce $3.7 million wind power grant for UMaine

U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, both from Maine, announced Monday that the University of Maine will receive a $3.7 million federal grant to further its study of offshore energy generation technology powered by wind.

The money will flow to the Maine Aqua Ventus project, which is a public/private partnership led by UMaine. Specifically, the grant will help develop a floating offshore wind platform that the consortium has designed. Aqua Ventus was among four parallel projects that were under development in the United States, but the others failed to secure markets for the energy they would produce, according to the press release. The projects face a milestone in May 2016, when the Department of Energy will reassess them to determine which projects will receive further funding.

This is good news for Maine on two fronts. First, federal funding is flowing this way. Second, Maine’s two congressional representatives, who agree on very little and are basically ideological rivals, are finding ways to work together. — Christopher Cousins

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What I have learned about raking

A couple of weeks ago, my wife posted an article on my Facebook page about scientists from the National Wildlife Federation who say, (are you ready for this?) don’t rake your leaves.

On one hand, I had the urge to plant a grateful smooch on her. On the other, I thought of the leaves in my driveway and across most of my lawn, which at the time were more than ankle deep. According to the article, raking leaves ruins habitats and food sources for butterflies, salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, shrews and earthworms. Prior to my wife posting this article two weeks ago, I assumed NOT raking the leaves would ruin my own habitat, both my lawn next year when I want to mow and also inside the house, when there’s a snowstorm coming the next day and she “reminds” me about the leaves.

I have already spent several days this year raking, a task which, like stacking firewood, I actually enjoy to some degree. That doesn’t negate that overwhelming feeling when you first start to feel the burn in your shoulders and you compare the minuscule corner of the lawn you’ve cleared with all that is left. This year, I’ve already cleared the leaves at my mother-in-law’s house and for a friend who can’t rake because of a shoulder injury. My own leaves are about 20 percent taken care of, but I have a huge lawn. Here’s what I learned:

  • The media is wrong about raking.
  • Don’t even THINK about raking a single leaf until ALL the trees are bare.
  • If your rake is missing tines, it’s worth it to buy a new one, you cheapskate.
  • Rake WITH the wind, not against it.
  • If you’re raking for your mother-in-law or your friend, for free, confirm ahead of time that there’s beer on the premises.
  • Say a prayer for the butterflies, salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, shrews and earthworms. With a straight face.
  • Check for ticks afterward.
  • If your wife says don’t rake, she is testing you. — Christopher Cousins 
Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.