Written by David Carkhuff
Democratic National Committee Chair and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., campaigned in Portland Monday, taking a swipe at the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision regarding mandated health insurance coverage as part of a Women Take Action Rally 2014.
In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government may not force religious business owners and corporations to provide abortion-inducing drugs and devices and contraceptives to their employees — a 5-4 ruling that stoked anger among supporters of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and its sweeping employer mandates.
Wasserman Schultz, speaking to members of the Maine Democratic Party Monday, said the decision really affected "what kind of health care you get to have covered" and hinted that Republicans would use the ruling to further curb health care coverage.
"In the middle of that decision your boss gets to decide whether you can get access to birth control coverage. They are not going to stop just at birth control, they are going to push the envelope of the Hobby Lobby decision," Wasserman Schultz said.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, also blasted the Hobby Lobby decision.
"This decision says if your boss doesn't believe in birth control, they can withhold coverage for contraceptive services, it's kind of unimaginable that this shouldn't be covered under everyone's health care," Pingree said.
Emily Cain, Democratic candidate for Maine's 2nd Congressional District, said, "The election is 99 days away, and I'm absolutely counting."
Cain, a state legislator, is running for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, who is running for governor.
"I'm running in a race where there's a stark choice," Cain said.
Her opponent, Bruce Poliquin, former Republican state treasurer, has said he is campaigning against an "over-reaching and indebted federal government that is eroding our hard-earned liberties and coveted way of life."
When the Hobby Lobby ruling came down, Poliquin said, "The Supreme Court ruled small businesswomen and small businessmen have choices in the insurance plans they offer and for which they pay. The Supreme Court has ruled the government should not interfere with someone's religious beliefs in forcing them to buy a product. I will not stand in the way of peoples' freedom in the choice of what they purchase."
Pingree and Michaud were among co-sponsors of legislation that sought to overturn the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling. The U.S. Congress, with Republicans in the majority in the House and Democrats holding the edge in the Senate, failed to pass the legislation.
On Monday, Wasserman Schultz said, "We need Emily Cain to join us because it is the women of this country, and it is the women in Congress, if we are going to get anything done and push past the intransigence and the stubbornness of the gridlock that we're dealing with in Washington, it's going to be because women come together and say, 'Enough is enough.'"
Michaud attended the rally but left early to fly to Washington to vote on legislation that aimed to "tackle the immediate systemic problems throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs."
In an interview with media, Michaud said, "I'm very pleased with the compromise that we've been able to work out over the weekend."
"I can assure the veterans of Maine that they will be very pleased," he said.
Michaud, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, was a lead member of the Conference Committee, his office noted. He said the legislation would provide "long-term structural changes within the VA department-wide."
According to news reports, the bipartisan legislation, one of the few measures expected to pass a deeply divided Congress prior to an August recess, would authorize at least $17 billion in spending over the next three years to fix the scandal-ridden veterans health program, with about $5 billion of that offset elsewhere in the budget.
Staff from U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows' office were in attendance at Monday's event. Bellows, running against Republican incumbent Susan Collins, is participating in her "Walk Across Maine" and on Monday had already walked 130 miles of her 350-mile Walk Across Maine for Jobs and the Economy, her staff said.
In a statement, Bellows said, "The stakes for women in this election are too important to risk Republican control of the U.S. Senate. The fact that we're even debating access to birth control in 2014 demonstrates how extreme Republicans in Washington have become. A vote for Republican Susan Collins is a vote for Mitch McConnell and his extremist attacks on women's health and equality."
"Maine Democrats are unified in their vision of standing up for Maine women, their health and creating economic opportunity for all," said Mary Erin Casale, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:14
Written by Timothy Gillis
The Ossipee Valley Music Festival wrapped up another summer in South Hiram, branching out from bluegrass but staying true to its root cause of making music accessible to fans of all ages.
The festival welcomes children under 18 with free admission and offers workshops, concerts and activities designed just for kids.
On Saturday, "Lunch at the Dump" was playing in the Dance Barn while the Stray Birds played on the Main Stage. Next up there was the Carper Family and Cindy Cashdollar. The Carper Family is Beth Chrisman, who plays fiddle, Jenn Miori on guitar, and Melissa Carper on bass. Cashdollar plays Dobro and steel guitar, and has performed with Bob Dylan, Asleep at the Wheel, and Van Morrison. The golden harmonies of the group wafted out over the afternoon crowd. The band was practicing what they preached. They ran a three-part harmony workshop earlier in the day. They toured the East Coast for the first time last year, roaming from their hometown in Austin, Texas, all the way to Bath, Maine. Sunday night, they played at The Barn at Friendly River, making it four shows in Maine in two years.
"It's beautiful here," Miori said. "We love playing Northeast festivals in summertime."
Later on, half of the Maine Youth Bluegrass Ensemble was jamming with parents by their campsite. Ron Cody, a mentor of the band, played banjo with his son, Johnny, a 10-year-old fiddler. Perrin Davidson, 15, plays banjo. Max Silverstein, 17, plays guitar and fiddle and fronts a trio called Maximum Blue, with his dad, Jeff, on mandolin. Finn Woodruff, 15, plays fiddle. Wendy Cody rounded out the impromptu jam session on stand-up bass.
"'Jammin' is part of bluegrass," Ron said. "Kids learn from hearing. This is the most important part of a festival, hanging out casually and hearing the sound. The youngest hears the oldest and learns. And the other way works, too." The group was playing the music of Bill Monroe, "jammin' on Bill Mon," according to the Codys, who have been at every OVMF. They didn't see a downside to the festival's move to include more than bluegrass.
"The core idea is still bluegrass," Ron said.
"It's a misnomer," Jeff added. "The term has grown to mean more than just bluegrass. It's Americana, folk. You hear classic bluegrass less and less, as younger players mature and blend in their own influences."
More family affairs were occurring across the fairgrounds at Stage Too, as Wide Open Spaces, with Peter Anick on mandolin and fiddle, got in tune. His son, Jason, plays violin and leads The Rhythm Future Quartet, who were warming up back of the main stage, prepping for their late afternoon gig.
The Rhythm Future Quartet is the younger Anick, Olli Soikkeli and Vinny Raniolo on guitar, and Greg Loughman on bass. Anick has played at One Longfellow Square in Portland, and last year jammed with Tommy Emmanuel. When he was a college student at Hartt Conservatory, he was invited by John Jorgenson to join his band.
Asked about the difference between the fiddle and the violin, Peter said, "It's the same instrument. The difference is the manner that you play." Jason writes a lot of music, and teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
"They keep it alive. They're not just copying arrangements; they're making it their own, bringing it into the current century," Peter said of his son's quartet. Peter played rhythm guitar on Jason's first CD, called "Sleepless."
The Rhythm Future Quartet played Sunday in Cape Porpoise, and is slated for a show at the Saco River Theater in Buxton on Oct. 17.
Flop-Eared Muse, traditional folk music since 1967, is owned by Chantal Bastiat and Michael Bourquin. They had a store in Philadelphia for 25 years and have since taken their wares on the road.
"The hard part about what we're doing is finding an audience," Bastiat said. They have been coming to the OVMF since its beginnings in 1999. They have seen business drop over the years, as the festival has replaced "bluegrass" with "music" in its title and opened up to more musical types. The sheet music they sell is more sought after at pure bluegrass shows, they noted. They used to hit one festival a week during the summer, but now only manage half that amount, citing the cost of fuel.
"The economy still hurts at festivals. And they're feeling the hit in the South even more," Bourquin said. Bastiat, who is from Bordeaux, France, had a music shop there for 10 years before she came to the United States. In Philadelphia, she met Bourquin who was making dulcimers.
"I bought the building, and he came with it," she said. The couple prefers mountain music to bluegrass, but got into the latter in the early 1980s. "Bluegrass fans respond to the beats in between," said Bourquin.
Flop-Eared Muse is the last stand to close each evening, and the couple waits until then to eat dinner. They don't make the rounds of the famous campfire jams.
"If you enjoy something, don't make it your living," Bourquin said. "Even here, with front row seats, we don't get to see much music."
Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band played to the early evening crowd, taking them through "The Devil Went Down to Ossipee," with a bit of "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne and "You Are My Sunshine" mixed in.
Shupe reportedly was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but "he turned himself around, and that's what it's all about." For their encore, they played a bluegrass gospel tune, "Walk the Walk."
Even though their several sets were finished by now, Tricky Britches, a Portland-based band, was hanging around to catch the other acts. Jed Bresette plays guitar and bass, Seth Doyle plays mandolin, guitar, and harmonica, Tyler Lienhardt plays fiddle and washboard, and Rich Bicknell plays the five-string banjo. Lienhardt said his favorite part of the festival was Jayme Stone's Lomax Project. Stone, a banjo player and composer, has brought together "some of North America's most distinctive and creative roots musicians to revive, recycle and re-imagine traditional music," according to his website. "The repertoire includes Bahamian sea chanties, African-American a cappella singing from the Georgia Sea Islands, ancient Appalachian ballads, fiddle tunes and work songs collected from both well-known musicians and everyday folk: muleskinners, roustabouts, sawyers, prisoners, homemakers and schoolchildren."
Margaret Glaspy, Eli West, Brittany Haas, and Greg Garrison joined Stone for the workshop performances. Lienhardt will play with a swing band trio called CC & the Two Lights at Mill Creek Park in South Portland on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
On Sunday morning of the festival, John Barton, of Friendly River Music (est. 1974) was hanging with his grandson, Aidan, at his stand. Barton likes the shift away from bluegrass only.
"It's brought in a lot more young people," he said. Friendly River supplies vintage electric guitars to some of rock's biggest rockers, including Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, who bought seven guitars, and Bruce Kulick from KISS, who bought a 1956 Les Paul.
"Paul McCartney's producer bought half a dozen guitars," Barton said of Bradley Kaplan. "I closed the store for him."
Sandy and Donna Murray, owners of Raisin' Canes handcrafted wooden items, have been to every OVMF, and were unsure about how much longer they would be able to make the trip from Lyndonville, Vt.
"The sales have seemed to dwindle every year. It was a questionable thing at first," Sandy said of returning. "But it was a good festival. We'll be back next year."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:15
Written by Staff Report
Described as "one of the worst cases of domestic violence in Maine's history," the deaths of a Saco family late Saturday night have been deemed a quadruple murder-suicide by the Maine State Police.
Detectives said 33-year-old Joel Smith shot his family about 11:30 p.m. Saturday night with a 12-gauge shotgun and then turned the gun on himself.
The victims are 35-year-old Heather Smith, and the couple's three children — Jason Montez, 12, Noah Montez, 7, and 4-year-old Lily Smith, Maine State Police reported. The two boys were shot to death in their separate bedrooms, and the wife and daughter were shot in the bed in the parent's bedroom, police said.
Joel Smith's body was found on the floor next to them, with the gun by his side. There was no suicide note found. Police have also not found any protection from abuse orders or court paperwork on the couple, since they moved to Maine.
The State Medical Examiner's Office examined the bodies Monday in Augusta.
The wife had told a family friend the night of the shooting that Joel Smith had threatened suicide earlier in the week by pointing a gun at his head, Maine State Police reported. There is no indication that any assistance was sought after that incident, police said.
Several neighbors told police they heard loud noises late Saturday night, but no one called police, according to a police press release. The family friend became concerned Sunday morning and called a maintenance worker at the apartment complex to check on the family, and that is when the deaths were discovered, police said.
The family moved to Maine from Arizona a couple of years ago, and Joel Smith worked at the apartment complex doing maintenance. Heather Smith worked as a medical assistant.
This is the sixth time since 1941 that four people have been killed in a multiple homicide in Maine, Maine State Police reported. The most recent case, where four people were killed, was at a Newry bed and breakfast in September of 2006.
Reaction to the investigation included a press release from the Maine Attorney General.
“The news from Saco over the last twenty-four hours is absolutely devastating,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills in the press release. “My heart breaks for the people and the communities involved. As we learn more details about the four victims, I am sure our grief will only grow. This horrific incident must serve as a reminder to all of us that threats of violence and threats of suicide must be taken seriously. Telling your boyfriend or girlfriend, ‘I can’t live without you,’ can quickly cross from the innocuous to the devastating. In the context of an abusive relationship, these utterances are veiled threats of violence, with a strong undercurrent of manipulation and control. Recognizing the signs of abuse — and acting upon them — is key to preventing future tragedies like this.”
Mills said anyone who needs to talk to an advocate can call a local law enforcement agency or the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence at 1-866-834-4357.
Last Updated on Monday, 28 July 2014 21:29
Written by Timothy Gillis
The Ossipee Valley Music Festival kicked off Thursday night, and one of the first acts to take the main stage was The Dirty Beggars, from Glasgow, Scotland.
The band, which plays Appalachian music, is in Maine for their first time and loved the scenic countryside on their drive up to South Hiram.
"It's beautiful. We flew up from Kansas City and then drove up here from Boston," said Alex Smith, their manager, while the boys were off rehearsing. "We're loving it so far."
The Dirty Beggars feature "their own brand of down and dirty bluegrass fused with traditional Celtic sounds," according to their website, www.thedirtybeggars.com. They combine guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and double bass to create "unique styles pioneered by Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch and the Dave Rawlings Machine." Their debut album "Bite The Bullet" was released in 2011. A new EP "Time to Reminisce" was released in November 2013 on the band's own independent label — Wayward Sounds Records.
They won't get to linger long, however, as their tour of the United States has them performing 16 shows in 16 days.
"It's pretty tight," Smith said. "We played at the Bluebird Café in Nashville and we'll be back in Nashville (later) to film for country music television."
The band flies out Friday to Virginia, to perform at FloydFest.
The Ossipee Valley Music Festival is a four-day gathering of musicians and music lovers, with more than 40 performers, barn dancing, music workshops, and a kids' music camp. The Songwriters' Showcase, sponsored by the Maine Songwriters Association, features some of the best up-and-coming talent from across the region. The festival includes the Wood Brothers, Willie Watson, Aoife O'Donovan (of Crooked Still & the Goat Rodeo Sessions), The Once, The Tricky Britches, and the Carper Family with Cindy Cashdollar.
The Ossipee Valley Music Festival was founded by Bill Johnson, in 1999, who remains amazed at its success over the years. It began as a personal quest to provide better music than the festivals he was attending throughout New England and the northeast region.
"I was fed up with popular music like most people. I went as far away as Virginia to see shows. Then I looked at these fairgrounds (in South Hiram) and thought this is the best place for a festival," Johnson said last year.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 22:21
Written by Timothy Gillis
The Portland Conservatory of Music presents the Alex Snydman Trio Friday night at Woodfords Church, in a concert that promises fresh music. The jazz threesome includes Brian Havey on piano, Tyler Heydolph on bass, and Alex Snydman on drums. Snydman recently introduced himself to the modern jazz world with his debut album "Fortunate Action," which was released last year. Heydolph is a bass instructor at the PCM.
"'Fortunate Action' is a term that to me symbolizes the positive ripples that echo out when we listen to our inner voice," Snydman says. "Sometimes this intuition we are all imbued with is telling us to make a difficult decision, but it seems that it is always directing us towards a path of Love."
The trio has a new pianist, Havey who is from Los Angeles. They are preparing to record a second album and plan to feature a lot of this new material at the concert in Portland. Snydman and Heydolph have been playing together for eight years.
"It's the first time that Brian and Tyler have played, but it's going to be perfect," Snydman said. "They both are extremely well-suited for it."
Growing up outside of Boston, Snydman was a guitarist for most of his young life.
"My parents never pushed the idea of drums," he said, knowing they didn't embrace the noise a drum set brought with it. "I touched my first set at 23, at Hampshire College, and fell in love with the drums. I had secured funding for the school to get a jazz combo thing started and switched from guitar to drums my senior year."
Snydman has played in Portland before, but it's been a long time. He talked about the differences between guitar and drums and why he switched.
"At their roots, all instruments require a certain level of transcendence to really be able to put one's spirit into the instrument," he said. "I found with guitar, when dealing with harmony (as you have to, being a jazz guitarist), for me there was less of a sense of freedom."
Snydman is still working on his drumming skills, practicing from four to six hours a day. Music occupies his other time, as well — all day, every day — teaching and gigging, and working on piano, too, which he prefers when composing.
"I hear piano before I hear jazz guitar, so it serves me in understanding certain things about harmony," said Snydman who is lately practicing drums and piano, primarily.
The band has been getting rave reviews. "All About Jazz" says "Fortunate Action" deserves serious attention from critics and fans alike.
Snydman has studied jazz with such stars as Eric Harland, Gregory Hutchinson, John Riley, Damion Reid, and Alan Hall. Harland, a two-time winner of Down Beat's Rising Star award, is Snydman's mentor.
"Alex really embodies the spirit we call Love," Harland said. "He's proven that it's never too late to pursue your dreams."
Snydman has shared the stage with artists like Grammy-winner Charles Neville and Felipe Salles. He is currently pursuing his masters' degree in jazz performance at the California Institute of the Arts. Snydman's switch from guitar to drums later in life is a rare success in the music world, and one that he plans to solidify with daily practice, and performances like the one tonight at the Meloon Chapel.
Alex Snydman Trio
Friday, July 25, at 7:30 p.m.
at Meloon Chapel at Woodfords Church (first floor)
202 Woodford St., Portland
(Please enter through the back door of the parish house)
Admission: Suggested donation of $15/person.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 21:16