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RFK Jr. visits Freeport to talk with supporters about farming and food

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RFK Jr. visits Freeport to talk with supporters about farming and food


FREEPORT — Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made a campaign stop in Maine Tuesday to talk to volunteers and supporters about food, farming and issues facing the food system in Maine and around the nation.

Kennedy is running as an independent in a race expected to feature a rematch of incumbent Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump as the front-runners.

Kennedy’s visit to the Old Town Meeting Place at the Hilton Garden Inn included a discussion with several Maine farmers who talked about some of their challenges, including contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, on farms.

Ron and Andrea Wappler, owners of Birch Star Farm in Pownal, speak with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. before a crowd of supporters gathered Tuesday at the Old Town Meeting Place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Freeport. Rachel Ohm/Staff Writer

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The space, which has a capacity of around 150, was packed.

ADDRESSING MAINE PROBLEMS

Katia and Brendan Holmes, who run Misty Brook Farm in Albion, were among the farmers who met with Kennedy and spoke to the crowd.

They spoke of their own experience having nearly lost their farm after having unknowingly given PFAS-contaminated feed to their dairy cows. They hope that more small farms like theirs can be seen as sustainable ways to feed America.

“What we saw during COVID was that very quickly the supermarket shelves were empty,” Brendan Holmes said. “Since we are not part of that industrial food chain it didn’t really affect us. We can basically process all our own food and deliver it.”

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Andrea and Ron Wappler, owners of Birch Star Farm in Pownal, also had time on stage with Kennedy. Andrea Wappler said she is a big supporter of Kennedy’s policy to create “healing farms” around the country to treat addiction and depression.

Kennedy supporter Michele Rollins of Yarmouth poses for a photo with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after Kennedy made a campaign stop in Freeport Tuesday. Rachel Ohm/Staff Writer

An independent voter, she said after the event that she “100%” plans to vote for Kennedy although she voted for Biden in the last election. “I don’t think he has the mental capability to handle the position,” Wappler said of President Biden, adding that she also disagrees with some of his foreign policy positions, such as the response to the war in Ukraine.

The audience also had a chance to ask Kennedy questions Tuesday. One woman asked what can be done to lower the cost of healthy food, to which Kennedy said his priority instead would be on ensuring that farmers are well-paid and that their farms are sustainable. Too often cheap food means that people are paying for it with negative health impacts, which is expensive in a different way, he said.

“My job would not be to make food cheaper,” Kennedy said. “My job would be to pay farmers to stay in business.”

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SIGNATURES GATHERED 

Tuesday was Kennedy’s second visit to Maine in recent months; he also appeared at the Ocean Gateway in Portland for a campaign rally in November.

He hasn’t yet qualified for the ballot in Maine, but is on the ballot in 26 other states so far.

Laura Morris, volunteer state lead for the campaign, said the campaign has gathered a little under 7,000 signatures so far in Maine, which exceeds the 4,000 to 5,000 needed to qualify for the ballot. Morris said the campaign is in the process of turning the signatures in to municipalities, which must be done by July 25.

The Maine Department of the Secretary of State must then receive the signatures by Aug. 1 in order for unenrolled candidates like Kennedy to qualify for the presidential ballot.

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Kennedy has been polling around 9% in recent national polls. According to FiveThirtyEight, Trump has averaged 42% support in recent polls, compared to 40% for Biden and 9.5% for Kennedy.

An Emerson College poll released Tuesday showed Trump leading Biden 44% to 40% with Kennedy receiving 6% of the vote and 1% supporting both Cornel West and Jill Stein.

The nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, Kennedy has drawn criticism in the past for promoting various conspiracy theories on topics including vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks to volunteers and supporters at the Old Town Meeting Place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Freeport Tuesday. Rachel Ohm/Staff Writer

He also made headlines last week for saying “it’s hard to tell what is a conspiracy theory and isn’t” when it comes to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He vowed to “open the files and usher in a new era of transparency” if elected president.

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VOTERS SEE AN ALTERNATIVE

Jeff Morris, who is an elector for Kennedy, said family members who are involved in the campaign got him interested, too. A former Democrat who is now independent, he said he’s been disenchanted with politics the last several years and has felt his vote didn’t really make a difference.

“Both sides have been so divisive and nasty to each other that I didn’t want anything to do with it,” said Morris, 61. A math professor who lives in Lewiston, he said a lot of friends tell him Kennedy is “that crazy guy.”

“He’ll at least get in front of the camera and answer the question,” Morris said. “You can choose not to believe him. You can choose not to vote for him. But he’ll at least answer your question.”

Jennifer and Chris Harris, who traveled about an hour from South Paris to see Kennedy, said they were excited to come.

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“He’s inspiring,” said Jennifer Harris, 52. “He’s actually talking about real issues we’re dealing with as Americans. He wants to help the economy. He wants to help stop pharmaceutical companies from running the world. I feel like he listens and hears us.”

An independent, Harris also interested in food security and in keeping local food and farming in Maine. “We’re really excited to see him,” Harris said. “For the first time ever in my life, I care about politics.”

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Maine

Maine state trooper injured after cruiser rear-ended, hits vehicle he pulled over during traffic stop

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Maine state trooper injured after cruiser rear-ended, hits vehicle he pulled over during traffic stop



7/20: CBS Weekend News

20:51

A Maine state trooper is recovering after he was rear-ended by another vehicle during a highway traffic stop on Saturday night, authorities said.

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The cruiser that Trooper Patrick Flanagan was in spun around and hit the vehicle he had pulled over. Flanagan and the two other drivers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Maine State Police said in a news release.

Flanagan’s emergency lights were activated on the southbound Maine Turnpike in Biddeford when his cruiser was struck, police said.

Maine Trooper Injured-Crash
This photo shows a Maine State Police trooper’s cruiser rear-ended at a traffic stop on the state turnpike in Biddeford on July 20.

Maine State Police via AP


Flanagan and the 25-year-old driver of the vehicle that struck his were taken to hospitals. The driver was issued a summons.

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The circumstances that led up to the crash are under investigation, police said.

It was the third vehicle crash into a state police cruiser within 48 hours, according to police reports.

The other two crashes happened in Gardiner and Gouldsboro, CBS affiliate WGME reported. There were no injuries in the other two.



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Ask Maine Audubon: Digital photography allows for closer study of rare birds

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Ask Maine Audubon: Digital photography allows for closer study of rare birds


The ferruginous hawk seen in Auburn last week was a rare bird sighting that was on nobody’s radar. The open habitats of the grasslands and deserts of the west are ideal for the ferruginous hawk. Photo by Gary Jarvis

Summer is not when we typically think of rare birds showing up in Maine. This newspaper has given great coverage to many of the vagrant birds that have strayed to Maine over the years, but most of those are tied with migrations in the spring or fall, or sometimes after storms. Among the list of rarities, Maine has hosted a few raptors in recent years that have attracted large crowds, notably the Steller’s sea eagle over the winters of 2022 and 2023, and the great black hawk that frequented Deering Oaks Park in Portland in 2018. A western marsh harrier found on North Haven in August 2022 was another bird not on anyone’s radar, so while no one would have ever guessed, it feels like we shouldn’t have been surprised when a ferruginous hawk was found in Auburn last week – the first record for New England.

With the Steller’s sea eagle coming from eastern Siberia, the black hawk from central America, and the marsh harrier from Europe, perhaps we were due for a rare North American raptor, albeit one from the grasslands and deserts of the west, that rarely strays east of the Mississippi. These open habitats are ideal for ferruginous hawks, which would explain its attraction to the Auburn-Lewiston airport where it was found by local birders Christine Murray, Gary Jarvis, and Camden Martin.

One of the coolest trends with modern birding, which has really come thanks to advances in digital photography, is the ability to match photos of known individuals between locations. When a rare bird is seen in two different areas, historically we would have only been able to guess that it was one individual, or would have assumed they were two different birds. Our detection rate of rare birds must be incredibly low. After all, what are the odds of an out-of-range bird being seen by someone, that person knowing that it’s a rare bird, or even taking a photo, and then reaching out to a state bird records committee or local Audubon. It must be well below 1% of all the vagrants that occur.

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Now, with really good digital cameras becoming more prevalent, we often end up with hundreds of photos of a single rare bird, capturing all angles and many feather details. For example, there are 2,241 photos of the Steller’s sea eagle in the Macaulay Library database (tied to Cornell’s eBird records) from that one bird’s time in Maine. With these photos, we can start matching unique feather patterns to other nearby sightings and sometimes we get a match. The Steller’s sea eagle had unique markings on its wings that matched it to a long string of records across the country before getting here. Our great black hawk was matched with photos from Texas (officially the first time the species had been detected in the United States), four months before being found in Maine.

All this leads me to point out that the unique markings on groups of underwing coverts (the little feathers that give the wing shape) on the ferruginous hawk’s wings, seen in Auburn, match perfectly with one that was seen in southern Ontario, on the shore of Lake Erie in early May. Where has this bird been since then? Why is it here? We may never know.

I do want to acknowledge the identification challenges with these birds. After rare bird sightings hit the news or social media, we always receive a bunch of reports, almost always of similar-looking species. The ferruginous hawk is similar to our abundant red-tailed hawks, though larger (15-20%), and the Auburn individual is one of the light color morphs, so it shows a very pale head and almost entirely unmarked white chest and belly, unlike the darker red-tails. I encourage anyone who thinks they see a rare bird to get a photo and send it to naturalist@maineaudubon.org.

These are some fascinating examples of rare raptors that have shown up in Maine, all coming from vastly different places. That’s one of the fun aspects of this hobby. We are constantly learning new things from these birds. Advances in technology through photography allow us to get high quality images and social networks spread the word out to observers quickly. Following the path of a bird well outside its typical range leads us to wonder how it got here and why, and that’s where the fun comes in.

Have you got a nature or wildlife question of your own? It doesn’t have to be about birds! Email questions to ask@maineaudubon.org and visit www.maineaudubon.org to learn more about birding, native plants, and programs and events focusing on Maine wildlife and habitat. Doug and other naturalists lead free bird walks on Thursday mornings, 7 to 9 am, at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm Audubon Sanctuary in Falmouth.

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Harris gets back on the trail as Biden recovers from COVID

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Harris gets back on the trail as Biden recovers from COVID


PROVINCETOWN, Mass./REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Vice President Harris was back on the campaign trail this weekend, raising money for the Biden-Harris ticket on Cape Cod while President Biden remained sidelined by a case of COVID in his beach house in Delaware.

In a large tent near the the harbor, hundreds of Democratic donors cheered and waved fans imprinted with “Veeptown” — a play on P-Town, as the beach town known for its LGBTQ history and community is called.

Harris focused on former President Donald Trump’s policies that removed protections for discrimination for LGBTQ people for health care, employment, and students and his ban on transgender military service.

She said Trump’s running mate, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, “undoubtedly will be a rubber stamp for Trump’s extremist anti-LGBTQ agenda,” citing legislation he proposed that would ban gender-affirming care. That prompted a yell of “Go get ’em, Kamala!” from one of the donors.

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Erin Schaff/POOL/AFP via Getty Images / AFP

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Vice President Harris visits a new ice cream shop owned by supermodel Tyra Banks with her grand-nieces on July 19, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Harris is in the spotlight as Biden is sidelined

The fundraiser came as the future of Biden’s campaign is in question. A disastrous debate against Trump three weeks ago fueled a growing chorus of calls from Democratic party officials and donors for Biden, 81, to end his bid for a second term and let a younger candidate take over. Biden has insisted he will stay in the race.

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Harris has not publicly engaged in the debate, and did not mention it in her Provincetown remarks. She praised Biden, saying she was “testifying” that he fights for “everyday working Americans.”

But some of the lawmakers asking Biden to step aside have been testifying that Harris should be at the top of the ticket.

On Saturday, Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., called her a “tenacious prosecutor” with the experience to beat Trump. “Joe, I love you and respect you. But the stakes are too high to fail. It’s time to pass the torch to Kamala,” Takano said in a statement.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — who has not called for Biden to leave the race — said Harris would unite the party if Biden changes his mind, and praised her for her work on economic issues and abortion rights. “Look — if you’re running against a convicted felon, then a prosecutor like Kamala is really a good person to make that case,” Warren said on MSBNC.

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President Biden exits Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after he had to leave the campaign trail due to testing positive for COVID.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP / AP

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President Biden exits Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after he had to leave the campaign trail due to testing positive for COVID.

Biden has said he’ll be back on the trail this week

Biden had been pushing back on concerns about his age and abilities, doing a flurry of events in swing states, as well as as a solo press conference and several interviews. But that came to a halt when he tested positive for COVID last week.

His doctor said in a memo on Saturday that Biden’s symptoms are improving, though he still has a cough. Since the Republican National Convention ended, the pace of Democrats asking Biden to leave has picked up.

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Campaign spokesman Michael Tyler told reporters on Saturday that the president would be back out on the trail next week once he gets the green light from his doctor.

Copyright 2024 NPR





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