Thousands show support in the wake of meteorologist's suicide
Last week, the local television station WCSH-6 released a touching video tribute to meteorologist Tom Johnston, after authorities found his body and revealed that he committed suicide.
The video, now viewed over 20,000 times, featured snippets of Johnston’s colorful personality through clips of weather reports and on-air banter with his colleagues.
“He was a meteorologist that felt more like a friend,” said reporter and co-worker Amanda Hill in the video. “Tom, as we know, had a huge smile and an equally large heart.”
Johnston, known by his nickname “TJ Thunder” moved to Maine from Florida three years ago and quickly developed a following as the upbeat, wise-cracking weatherman from Channel 6. Colleagues said that he loved the weather, and, like many Mainers, held a strange obsession with snow.
Police found Johnston’s body in a wooded area outside Auburn after he was reported missing days after he was emceeing at a ski event in Newry. As we remember Johnston’s life and positive energy, his demise serves as a cautionary tale; that no matter how happy someone appears to be, the anxieties they face inside are often times only knowable to them. Locals who knew Tom or watched him on TV alluded to this notion as they expressed their shock and grief.
“We watched Tom every night,” wrote PJ Wilson from Harpswell in response to the tribute video. “Tom was awesome. To his family, and his WCSH6 family, do not be too hard on yourself about not seeing signs. I lived with a ‘joker, smiler, giver’ that suffered depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and never saw through the smiles into the pain. Thank God my family member confided in someone. I too was blind. Fortunately for me I have the chance to keep my eyes and ears open. I know that you are sad and want to blame yourselves. Be kind to yourself, sometimes signs are not there.”
LePage renews efforts to slash candy and soda from EBT benefits
Maine has about 180,000 food stamp recipients and if Gov. Paul LePage gets his way, they won’t be able to buy candy or soda with their card.
Feeling that Trump and his administration will be more amenable to their cause, LePage and other state Republicans are renewing their efforts to ban these sugary foods from food stamp eligibility. LePage cites rising cases of obesity and diabetes as the motivation behind this ban.
According to the Portland Press Herald, LePage’s efforts have inspired legislators in Tennessee and Arkansas to pursue similar restrictions.
“We don’t allow people to buy alcohol and cigarettes with welfare dollars, why should we allow people to buy junk food that leads to just as many health problems?” Tennessee Rep. Sheila Butt told the Press Herald.
Immigration agents arrest Somali man inside Portland courthouse
Abdi Ali. Courtesy of the Cumberland County Jail.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a Somali asylum seeker named Abdi Ali at the Portland courthouse last week, according to his lawyer Tina Nadeau.
Ali was there for a meeting with his attorney about a previous drunk driving charge when ICE agents reportedly surprised him, pushed him against the wall, and detained him, according to Nadeau.
“It is very disturbing that someone coming to the courthouse for his scheduled court date and to get legal counsel is being dragged out in handcuffs,” said Nadeau to the Bangor Daily News.
According to ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer, Ali has a criminal history that includes resisting arrest, various misdemeanors, and two counts of assault.
Many progressive locals and groups like Portland City Councilor Pious Ali, Progressive Portland, and the Maine ACLU have condemned the arrest. They don’t think it’s right for immigration officials to ambush asylum seekers when they show up to their scheduled court date.
“Lurking at courthouses to arrest immigrants, is shortsighted and not the best way to implement immigration laws,” wrote City Councilor Pious Ali, an immigrant from Ghana, on Facebook. “Acts like this will negatively affect the relationship between local law enforcement and the immigrant community and are not in the best interest of our community and city.”
The Maine ACLU released a letter last week signed by 179 Maine attorneys noting that the practice "impedes access to justice and makes Mainers less safe." The letter is on its way to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, urging them to stop the practice of ICE agents arresting people inside courthouses.
According to a press release from Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, the Portland PD was unaware of the situation.
“The Portland Police Department was unaware federal officials were investigating or had plans to arrest Mr. Ali,” wrote Sauschuk in a press release. “We work very hard to build trust between the Police Department and all immigrant communities,” the chief said. “It is imperative that all the residents of our city are able to seek assistance from the police, and also provide us with the help we need to solve crimes and continue to make Portland a safe city. We know that cannot truly happen if they are in fear of the police.”
This comment arrives with some added weight behind it; the Portland Police Department has been repeatedly criticized by the Portland Racial Justice Congress (a group of racial equality activists) and others for their use of lethal force against an armed man named Chance David Baker two months ago, and the arrests of 15 Black Lives Matter protesters last July.
Islamophobic graffiti outrages students a second time
For the second time in six months, an anti-Muslim graffiti was found on USM’s Portland campus, provoking intense anger amongst students both on and offline.
The phrase “Kill the muslin,” was scribbled on a USM poster depicting what to do during an active shooter scenario. Could the perpetrator just have been expressing his disgust with light-weight cotton cloth? Many don’t think so, including USM President Glenn Cummings, who has condemned the act as a hate crime.
“I am personally sickened by this and apologize to our many Muslim students whose presence on our campus and contributions to our university I could not value more,” wrote Cummings in an email to the entire USM community. “While we can not control the behavior of every single person who finds their way onto our campus, I can assure you our approach is that even one incident is too many and will not be tolerated.”
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