Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Right whales in crisis: speeding ships and missing calves

The disastrous year for the North Atlantic right whale, the world's second most endangered mammal after the species' Pacific cousin, doesn't appear to be abating. After seventeen of the whales have been found dead since June in New England and Atlantic Canada -- more than three percent of the total worldwide population of 450 -- scientists warned the species will be extinct in another 23 years if something doesn't change.

But the most recent news only increases anxiety about the whales: a series of speeding violations by ships in a zone of the Gulf of St. Lawrence set up by Canada to protect the whales and, separately, an absence of calf sightings on the whales calving grounds off Georgia and northeastern Florida.

I have the full story on these and other developments in the whales' odyssey in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

I reported last summer for the Press Herald about the right whale die off, with some additional background about the species and how its been monitored. I've reported on the species on and off for  a decade for other publications, context you can find by starting here.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Maine: what happens if there's a federal shutdown tonight

At this writing, the US government is within hours of its first shutdown since 2013. As President Trump and Congressional leaders try to come up with an agreement, Mainers may want to know how a partial government closure is likely to effect them.

I put together a piece on just that for yesterday's Portland Press Herald. Have a look while you're waiting for the news from Washington.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Gov. LePage's support for offshore drilling at odds with every New England member of Congress

This month, when the Trump administration unveiled its plan to open virtually all areas of U.S. federal waters to oil and gas exploration, most of New England's elected leaders expressed outrage. Every member of the US Senate and US House from the five coastal New England states signed onto a bipartisan bill to ban drilling in the region, while every governor from Massachusetts to Florida announced their intention to seek an exemption. Florida's governor even got one.

The one exception: Maine's Gov. Paul LePage, who not only didn't join the chorus, he'd written a letter in August asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to do just what he did.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I report on the controversy and how LePage's stance on drilling may complicate Maine's effort to get a Florida-like exemption.

I previously reported on oil and gas drilling in our region in late 2015, when Canada leased areas on their side of the border, at the entrance to the Gulf of Maine.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Trump admin to erase voter registation data in effort to deny other voter fraud commission docs to Dunlap

The struggle over transparency at President Trump's voter fraud commission continues even after its demise.

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I updated the ongoing drama between the White House and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 11 member commission, who said he was frozen out of its deliberations for months and in November sued to gain access to working papers, past, present and future.

Trump pulled the plug on the commission Jan. 3, apparently on account of Dunlap's lawsuit, and Justice Department lawyers then informed Dunlap that, despite a court order, they would not be immediately turning over the documents. Dunlap then asked the court, in effect, to enforce its order, especially as the White House had said they were turning the voter registration data collected by the commission -- and its alleged "preliminary findings" -- to the Department of Homeland Security, which would continue the voter fraud work.

Only now that plan has been dumped.

This past week, the administration has instead announced it intends to erase all the voter registration data it collected, thereby removing one of the reasons Dunlap had argued he should be allowed to see its working papers. Dunlap told me it was "Orwellian."

Details in the story.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Trump disbands voter fraud commission, which now refuses to give Dunlap documents

President Trump this week pulled the plug on his controversial voter fraud commission, but the drama surrounding it has only escalated.

Trump's decision came on the heels of a federal judge's ruling that the commission had to turn over working documents to all of its commissioners, including Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who had filed suit to obtain them after he and the three other Democrats on the body were cut out of the information flow.

But, as I report in today's Maine Sunday Telegram, the Trump administration is now saying it will not comply with the judge's order on the grounds that, since the commission does not now exist, Dunlap is no longer a commissioner and not entitled to see its documents. Normally mild mannered Dunlap responded with outrage, saying the Department of Justice was showing contempt for the law and American values.

Today's story also describes how Dunlap's insistence on transparency may have caused the president to shut the commission down, and also what may or may not happen if the voter fraud effort is passed to the Homeland Security Department.

[Update, 1/10/18: Here's another incremental development, which I reported in today's paper: Dunlap has asked the court to order the government to share the docs with him and also not to transfer them to DHS or anyone else.]

For more on the voter fraud commission, start here.