Monday, September 25, 2017

Why did those coin counting machines vanish from your TD Bank?

TD Bank's US branches dropped their free Penny Arcade coin counting machines from service last summer. Unless you were paying attention, you may have missed why. On the occasion of its customers receiving a class action settlement card in the mail, I caught readers in Maine up with what happened and how the settlement works in Saturday's Portland Press Herald. (Hint: you may have been shortchanged.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Turns out the American Nations left a genetic trace too

Some of you may recall the study published earlier this year in Nature Communications, where genetics researchers mapped reproductive clustering in North America in time and space. Many of you forwarded the map they produced because it so strikingly resembled those in American Nations.

I talked to the director overseeing that research at Ancestry and wrote about what the results tell us about the regional cultures for the third installment of "Balkanized America," my American Nations-powered series over at Medium.

Those unfamiliar with the American Nations paradigm will want to first take a look at the first part of the series -- an up-to-date overview of the American Nations model and its wide-ranging implications and utility.

Medium, the blog hosting site created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, is developing a members only section, and invited me to create the series, so you do need to subscribe to read these. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Congress poised to reject many Trump program eliminations

This winter and spring, President Trump rolled out a budget proposal including the complete elimination many domestic programs, including a number whose absence would be noticed in Maine. These included low-income heating assistance, community development block grants, SeaGrant, the programs that fund the Wells Reserve, beach monitoring, radon gas abatement in homes, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Legal Services Corporation, which funds Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

But as I report in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram, the Republican-controlled Congress looks to be rejecting all of that. Both the House omnibus appropriations bill passed on Thursday and the current Senate committee reports that the upper chamber will bring to conference negotiations. The details are herein.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gulf of Maine warming concentrated in summer, which is getting longer

I've been remiss in posting that in this past week's Maine Sunday Telegram I reported on new scientific research that reveals a new level of detail of how the Gulf of Maine is warming.

As discussed in detail in my 2015 series on the warming of the Gulf, the body of water is the second fastest warming part of the world ocean, with plenty of implications for life here, marine and human alike.

The new research -- by a team including many of the same scientists who worked on the previous studies -- shows Gulf summers are getting longer by two days a year, and that almost all the annual warming is concentrated in the summer months meaning, among other things, less of a cold-water "speed bump" is present to protect the Maine coast from hurricanes.

The AP followed up on this story later in the week.

In recent weeks, right whales have been dying in large numbers in the northeast Atlantic -- possibly due in part to secondary climate effects -- and researchers have estimated that many commercial fish species in the Gulf may run out of thermally appropriate habitat in coming decades.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Maine member of Trump voter fraud commission is pretty unhappy

President Trump's controversial voter fraud commission met in New Hampshire yesterday, but not before its vice-chair and de facto leader claimed, based on an erroneous understanding of state law, that the 2016 US Senate election there had been "stolen." And while the meeting was underway, an email surfaced revealing that one of the commissioners had expressed outrage that Democrats or "mainstream Republicans" would be appointed to the body.

It was all a bit too much for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a member of the commission who has been frustrating many fellow Democrats with his "wait and see" stance on its trajectory. As I report in tomorrow's Portland Press Herald, Dunlap called the allegations of a "stolen" election in New Hampshire "absurd" and says he now realizes that the majority view on the commission is that "fraud" is making it easy for people they don't like to vote.

I've been covering the commission regularly, including a story just a few days ago on how it has been using private email accounts to conduct official business, a possible violation of federal public records laws.

[Update, 11/18/17: Dunlap has now sued the commission and asked for an injunction. For more updated coverage, start here.]

Friday, September 8, 2017

Trump voter fraud panel using private emails for official business

President Trump's controversial voter fraud panel is meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire next week, but this week it was accused of violating federal public records law by using private email accounts for official business.

The allegation -- the result of an ongoing transparency lawsuit against the Commission -- is detailed in my story in today's Portland Press Herald, where I interview Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the commission.

I've been covering the commission for the Press Herald all year, most recently this story, wherein we learned that Commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach -- who is now also a paid columnist for Steve Bannon's white nationalist news site Brietbart -- has been taking actions on behalf of the body without consulting with his fellow commissioners, who appear not to have any real powers at all.

[Update, 11/18/17: Dunlap has now sued the commission and asked for an injunction. For more updated coverage, start here.]

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On the Maine (and Icelandic) links of the "grandfather" of American neo-Nazis

In September 1955, Maine's Portland Press Herald ran a soft feature on a local guy making good. "Publisher Who Loves Children Brings Out A New First Issue" profiled area resident George Lincoln Rockwell, who had just launched U.S. Lady, a glossy magazine to support the wives of servicemen as they and their families relocated with them. Understandably, his wife Thora and her children featured in the piece and in the photograph illustrating it (above.)

It's a chilling photo because after the magazine failed, Rockwell turned to radical politics, founded the American Nazi Party, and travelled the country calling for the gassing of Jews and other "traitors" and the mass deportation of African Americans before being killed with a sniper rifle by one of his followers.

Thora Halgrimsson, a member of one of Iceland's most powerful families, had left him years before, returning to her native country with their children and her son by a previous marriage. Her second husband, Bjorgolfur Gudmundson, adopted the children and rose to become Iceland's richest man, the chairman of the recklessly aggressive Landsbanki investment bank, and owner of the British football club West Ham United. He has been under a variety of fraud investigations ever since Landsbank's collapse helped bring down Iceland's economy in 2008.

When he learned in 2005 that a biographer had written a chapter in a forthcoming book with details of Thora's marriage to Rockwell, Gundmundson -- who owned the publishing house -- had the copies pulped and compelled the author to expunge most of the material. ("It was irrelevant to the whole story," he told The Observer.) When the Reykjavik tabloid DV broke the Icelandic media's silence on the revelation and published an article on the missing chapter, Gudmundson tried to buy the paper and shut it down.

I came across the clipping (and Icelandic backstory) while researching this week's feature on Rockwell's deep ties to Maine in the Maine Sunday Telegram, which include summers in the Boothbay region, graduating from Hebron Academy, starting businesses in Portland and Boothbay Harbor, living in Falmouth, Lewiston, and Bailey's Island, and serving at Brunswick Naval Air Station. I hope you'll read it.