USM President Won’t Cancel Controversial Event That Has Students On Edge
The conservative group the "Young Americans For Freedom" have planned a controversial event at the University of Southern Maine. The student group received permission from University officials to host Rep. Lawrence Lockman, a controversial state legislator who's made anti-gay, anti-abortion, and pro-rape (yes, you read that correctly) statements repeatedly in the past. He's been invited to give a speech and lead a discussion titled "Alien Invasion: Fixing the Immigrant Crisis."
Naturally, large portions of the student body are furious that this is happening and are planning a protest, with stated intentions of blocking and disrupting the event. They don’t see Lockman’s talk as an example of free speech, but rather hate speech. Some student protesters are even reserving multiple tickets at a time to ensure they have space to air their grievances.
But despite the outrage, the President of USM Glenn Cummings won’t cancel the event that’s scheduled for Thursday. In a mass email to all USM students, Cummings pledged to ensure that the speaker is given a safe environment and has asked the organizer of the event to hire campus security guards or Portland police to monitor the situation.
Maine Lawmakers Consider “Blue Lives Matter” Bill
The designation of “hate crime” is usually reserved for cases involving race, religion or sexuality, but one Maine lawmaker wants to include certain occupations in it as well.
Rep. Karl Ward (R-Dedham) is sponsoring a bill dubbed “Blue Lives Matter” that would apply to emergency responders (police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and EMS professionals). Ward said that he wants to ensure that ambush like attacks on police officers (like recent situations in Baton Rouge and Dallas) don’t happen here in Maine.
Under this proposed bill an assault on police officers would be a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Critics of the move include the New England Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, which said that hate crime laws aren’t reserved for people in certain occupations.
“While the ADL supports enhanced penalties for attacks against law enforcement officers and first responders, we do not support adding law enforcement or other categories based on employment to hate crime laws,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director in an interview with NECN.
Maine Gets Hit With A Historic Blizzard
What a series of storms we suffered through last week, huh? The days of blizzard conditions (which dumped at least two feet of snow here in Portland) had city workers working nonstop to make the roads safe, and clear the sidewalks and fire hydrants. But they had trouble keeping up. The Portland Press Herald reported that the Department of Transportation were forced to put supervisors behind the wheels of their plow trucks because the multiple storms put a strain on their understaffed crews.
The blizzard resulted in some minor accidents, a couple hundred power outages, disgruntled pedestrians, and hundreds of business and school cancellations across the state.
But prepare for more; meteorologists say that we may see more snow during the weekend.
New Research Sheds Light On Food Insecurity in Maine
A new study, titled “Hunger Pains: Widespread food insecurity threatens Maine’s future,” was released last week and showed that 16 percent of the state’s households (about 200,000 people) experience food insecurity. About 87 percent of those households have at least one child, a senior, or someone with a disability.
Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.
The study was conducted by the social service agency Preble Street and Good Shepherd Food Bank. It found that Maine’s hunger rate is the third highest in the country.
After thousands of surveys, researchers at Preble Street found that state policy changes may have played a big role. About 25 percent of those surveyed said that they experienced food insecurity after being dropped from Maine’s food stamp program, otherwise known as SNAP. To receive SNAP benefits in Maine, you can’t own more than $5,000 in assets. It’s this requirement, as well as other policy changes and restrictions to social safety net programs, combined with low wages and declining job availabilities, that results in thousands going to sleep hungry across the state.
Drew Taggart, Of Freeport, Picks Up A Grammy
Although Beyonce stole the show at the Grammy’s last week, another exciting thing happened: a Mainer picked up a Grammy award.
The pop duo The Chainsmokers won an award for best dance recording for “Don’t Let Me Down,” a catchy hit you’ve definitely heard on the radio once or twice. The duo’s quickly rising in popularity and consists of Drew Taggart and Alex Pall. Taggart’s the Mainer; he went to school at Freeport High a little over 10 years ago.
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