Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Maine poised to finally respond to Gulf of Maine climate threats


With Gov. Paul LePage gone and Democrats in complete control of state government, Maine appears poised to finally confront climate change threats to the state, including the implement of key recommendations of a bipartisan ocean acidification commission that wrapped up its work back in 2014.

I report on these developments in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

The Gulf of Maine is the second fastest warming part of the world's oceans, with far-ranging implications for Maine fisheries, the economy, and the ecosystem -- all this the subject of my 2015 Press Herald series "Mayday," which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize that year. Since then, Maine lawmakers have failed to respond, Congress and the Trump administration have refused to act, and the Gulf has continued to experience near-record temperatures.

For further background on the crises facing the world's oceans, consider my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas, which took me from Antarctica to Micronesia, with Belize, Newfoundland, Louisiana and the Black Sea in between.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Maine: public records withheld by LePage may soon see light of day

Maine has a notoriously weak public records law, one lacking in meaningful enforcement provisions. The result: bad actors in state government are able to defy the intent of the law and never turn over records. The Maine Warden Service provided one infamous example of sustained stonewalling a few years back, and the system demonstrated it was impotent to compel compliance. Governor Paul LePage provided another, failing to turn over the receipts for his emolument clause-relevant stay (or stays) at Donald Trump's Washington DC hotel.

But with the change of administrations, Mainers may finally see some of the results of some long suppressed requests under Maine's Freedom of Access Act. In Monday's Portland Press Herald I report on the hows and whys of this, and talk to experts about the shortcomings of Maine's FOAA and how it might be rectified.

Last week I reported on another public records problem: many older ones have likely been lost as information technology staffers purged servers.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ten years of World Wide Woodard

Happy 2019 everyone, and happy birthday to this blog, which started 10 years ago today with this post from Reykjavik, where I was starting a reporting trip in the wake of that country's near-total (but ultimately short-lived) financial meltdown in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis.



Reflecting on the decade recorded on this blog, the major changes: (a) parenthood and (b) a not unrelated shift away from primarily foreign correspondent work to North American coverage; (c) becoming a staffer at Maine's largest newspaper (where we won a big award and was a finalist for another); (d) the writing, completion, publication, and dissemination of American Nations and its successor, American Character; (e) the continued life of Republic of Pirates, via an NBC television show, an Ubisoft video game, and a variety of foreign translations; and (f) a reduction in the frequency and geographical scope of my travels -- not-so-worldwide Woodard, as the decade turned out!

Here's to an interesting second decade.




Sunday, December 30, 2018

As digital tsunami struck, many Maine state records are believed swept away


In today's Maine Sunday Telegram, I report on the apparent loss of a huge number of Maine state government emails and digital documents from the administrations of Govs. Angus King and John Baldacci. The losses, which leave holes in the state's historical memory and violate a variety of statutes, are apparently due to ad hoc actions by past information technology officials attempting to free up scarce server space.

Details can be found in the story. A number of issues remain blurry, including the exact disposition of emails created by state officials between 2008 and 2016, and what proportion of pre-2008 emails and digital documents survive only on back-up storage tapes (as opposed to accessible, searchable servers.) If you have firsthand knowledge, drop me an email.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Mainer on Putin's interrogation "wish list" on the Act that upset Russia

In July,  wrote about how a guy from Maine wound up on Vladimir Putin's list of Americans he'd like turned over for interrogation, a request he made of President Trump at this past summer's summit in Helsinki and one that - to widespread horror - Trump appeared to entertain.

Kyle Parker, raised in Old Town, educated at the University of Maine, was back in Maine this month, speaking to the Midcoast Forum on Foreign Relations about the legislation he championed that Putin so hates: the Magnitsky Act. I caught up with him at the event and shared his thoughts on the Act, why it's effective, why Putin doesn't like it, and on growing up in Maine in Monday's Portland Press Herald.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Mainer spearheading West Coast fishermen's climate change suit against Big Oil

Last month, a coalition of West Coast fishermen filed a suit against thirty of the world's major oil companies in California Superior Court seeking damages for the latter having allegedly undermined the Dungeness crab fishery via climate change; the suit alleges Big Oil knew about the dangers of climate change for decades, but actively decided the public and decision makers.

The head of the organization that filed the suit, Noah Oppenheim, is a 31-year old scientist from Maine who grew up in Falmouth and did his graduate work at the University of Maine's Darling Marine Center. I wrote on how he found his way to the middle of this high-profile law suit in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. Enjoy.

I wrote on two other Mainers at the center of national news -- Interior Department whistleblower Joel Clement and Russia expert Kyle Parker -- in the Press Herald recently.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Big in Japan IV: Talking American Nations with Sekai

While in Tokyo, I spent an enjoyable morning at the offices of Iwanami Shoten, speaking with Rikkyo University historian Hiro Matsubara for Sekai, a leading Japanese political monthly. We covered a wide range of issues related to North American regionalism and American Nations.

Dr. Matsubara's article is in the current issue of the magazine, for those of you who both read Japanese and subscribe. If you're part of that cohort, consider the Japanese edition of American Nations, published by Iwanami.

I was in Japan to speak at the Asahi Forum, but also was able to speak to seminars at Tokyo University and Kyoto's Doshisha University, and wrote about Maine retailer L.L. Bean's success in Japan for the Portland Press Herald.



(Here, for search purposes, is the Japanese title:)

11の国のアメリカ史――分断と相克の400年(上)