USM Free Press News Feed
Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer
On Jan. 13 in Hawaii, an Emergency Management Agency employee sent a false alert regarding an incoming ballistic missile from North Korea, according to Time’s Abigail Abrams. The message read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” This alert was sent to every person in Hawaii. In light of this recent event, USM Public Safety is in the spotlight for emergency situation protocols for missiles, school shootings and natural disasters.
Chief Ronald Saindon, Interim Director of Public Safety, urges both faculty and students to sign up for the E2Campus Alerts. Students can also familiarize themselves with the information on the USM Public Safety Emergency Info section on their website. The emergency info section explains who to call, directions of what to do, specifics on school shooter protocols and information on reporting a crime or suspicious activity anonymously.
Signing up for the E2Campus Alerts is not only important to get quick information, but it also provides directions of what students can do in case of an emergency.
“If an emergency unfolds that involves a threat to the faculty, staff or students of USM, a text and email will be sent to those who have signed up… to inform them of the emergency and the immediate action to take,” Saindon said.
Questions about an active school shooter is common, Saindon added. Not only is there specific information about how to handle the situation on their website, they have also placed posters throughout the three campuses in reference to an active shooter scenario.
“We have found it is very important to put this information not only on the website, but also where people can see it on a continual basis,” Saindon said. “The hope is the more they look at it, the more they will remember it if an active shooter scenario unfolds on campus… then students can follow the directions of the text or email the Public Safety sends out.”
The main directions that the active school shooter protocol follows is flee, hide or fight. Fleeing means safely escaping the campus and finding a safe place. Hiding is finding a room, closing and locking the door and barricading it if possible, especially if the whereabouts of the shooter is unknown. It is also important to silence cell phones and other devices. Lastly, fighting involves coming face to face with the assailant with imminent threat to life, where it is an option to incapacitate the shooter any way possible.
“Each emergency is unique,” Chief Saindon said. “They do not fall neatly into one type of situation that you can plan for.”
The Public Safety Department prepares themselves for all types of emergency situations throughout the year. Chief Saindon explained that, “ongoing training for USM staff happens through drills, table top exercises, conferences and other training techniques.”
Every officer employed by Public Safety is trained by the State of Maine Police Academy, and they have help from outside agencies including the Gorham and Portland Police Departments. USM has many services and groups in contact to help handle emergency situations, including the local police departments, the office of Environmental Health & Safety, and the Department of Facilities Management. Additionally, the Emergency Response Team, a nationwide group, has trained personnel in the area to deal with emergencies, and they follow the National Incident Command System (NIMS) under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“NIMS provides a common nationwide approach to enable the whole community to work together to manage all threats and hazards,” Chief Saindon said. “NIMS applies to all incidents, regardless of cause, size, location or complexity.”
Business Insider ranks the most established emergency protocols at universities including Harvard, Corban University and Boston University. The success of these university emergency protocols is measured by clarity, timeliness and preparedness. USM’s Public Safety Department shows evidence of all three with a clear website, up-to-date phone and email alerts and consistent officer training.
Sam Margolin, Staff Writer
The city of Portland is nearing the construction of a new roundabout to replace the intersection of Brighton Avenue, Deering Avenue, and Falmouth Street near USM’s Portland campus. The Portland City Council approved the new roundabout plan in 2013 after an analysis organized by the city of Portland and Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS), which oversees transportation planning in the Portland area and helps secure federal funding for various projects. According to the city of Portland, the new construction is scheduled to begin in 2019 and will cost just under three million dollars. 75 percent of that cost will be paid for by PACTS with the remaining 25 percent being paid for by the city of Portland.
In addition to the new roundabout, the construction plan includes new underground utilities. This will make for complicated and noticeable construction impacts next year. As with any new major project, the costs are significant but the long-term maintenance of a roundabout will be lower than the existing intersection due to the lack of traffic lights and improved vehicle and pedestrian flow.
The project’s creation was prompted not so much by safety concerns, but by traffic and flow restrictions. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, the intersection’s danger is low to medium with only eight collisions last year and only one of those resulting in injury. The problem with the existing intersection is in part due to the lack of flow of traffic and the complicated lights. Long delays for vehicles during peak hours are the main complaint heard from motorists. Pedestrians and cyclists claim that the intersection is difficult to cross and ride through. The aging and inefficient signal equipment also cause traffic speeds to rise to a dangerous level.
For students trying to make it to class on time both in vehicles and on foot, the intersection has become a place of frustration and anger. As USM’s Portland campus is already the site of parking, traffic and flow problems, the need to ease the tension is more important than ever. Tucker Derstine, a USM graduate and a Maine Law student, is especially affected due to his need to walk from the Portland campus to the Law School on a daily basis.
“Traffic gets backed up in every direction, lights are poorly timed, and people don’t know how to correctly navigate the lanes. Plus the road surface is patched and full of potholes, it’s the worst,” Derstine said. “It is the worst intersection in Portland. I’ve been dealing with it regularly for eight years, sometimes multiple times in a day if I have to come and go from the law school.”
Derstine went on to say that Portland’s traffic problem is growing and must be solved. The intersection is now a nuisance that is too obvious to ignore. As for spending the large amount of money it will take to get the job done, Derstine said, “I don’t see any alternative. It needs to happen. I fully support this plan.”
Proponents and creators of the proposal have been investigating the best way to solve this problem for over five years now. Jeremiah Bartlett, a Transportation Systems Engineer for the Portland Department of Public Works, has been the project manager from the beginning of the design effort up until just recently. Conrad Welzel is the current project manager but Bartlett is still very much involved. Bartlett outlined some of the benefits that could be achieved through the new roundabout.
“There will be shorter crossing distances for pedestrians, and they will only have to cross one direction of traffic at a time.” Bartlett said. “Vehicles will move slowly and steadily through the intersection, so even though they aren’t going as fast, they won’t get held up at a red light for a long time.”
Bartlett also stated that because vehicles will be moving at about 15 miles per hour, cyclists can ride right in the roundabout with motorists very safely. Students will also likely find it quicker and easier to walk between the main campus and the Law School. Commuters will spend less time waiting at the intersection and walkers can easily move around the intersection without waiting a long time for pedestrian lights. This will impact not just students, but locals as well, who can do all of these things plus enjoy the improved landscaping, signage and lighting. This will make the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood more appealing and attractive.
The six-year-long journey seems arduous but has moved rather quickly compared to other large civil construction projects. The city of Portland’s proposal to extend Somerset Street, starting later this year, has been in plans for the last 20 years. Bartlett says that the challenges with significant projects like these are almost always funding, as it tends to be limited both locally and at the state and federal level.
The new roundabout has significant benefits to both USM students and the city of Portland itself. Beginning next year, commuters should expect to see improved flow at the once chaotic six-way intersection.
Julie Pike, News Editor
A trip to the beach means a day in the sun, laying in the sand, and looking out into the never ending ocean. With the Trump administration’s recent proposal to allow offshore drilling, the people of Maine may be looking out at a big yellow oil rig two miles out in the ocean. The current plan is to open the entire coastline of the U.S. to allow offshore drilling, including the over 3,000 miles of Maine’s coastline.
The proposal includes a five year lease, beginning in 2019, and includes 90 percent of the outer continental shelf of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans surrounding the U.S. The outer continental shelf refers to the portion of the ocean directly surrounding the country that is outside of state jurisdiction.
Politicians in Maine have openly opposed the plan, including both Democratic U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, and Senators Susan Collins and Angus King. Governor Paul Lepage, however, has a different standpoint.
“We appear to have the only governor on the Atlantic seacoast that is in support of it,” said Robert Sanford, Head of the Environmental Science and Policy Department at USM.
A quote from the Washington Post by Lepage’s spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz stated that Lepage supports a balanced approach, one that places a priority on the environment and traditional industries, while also considering more jobs and lower energy costs.
In response to the public opposition that has been heard, the Portland Press Herald reported that Lepage would expect to exclude significant parts of the coastline from the plan.
Senators Collins and King reacted to the proposal by addressing a letter to the Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, expressing their discontent.
“Maine’s economic stability – and countless Mainer’s livelihoods – has always depended on the health of the ocean,” they wrote. They also mentioned that it would greatly hurt Maine’s lobster industry, which brings in 1.7 billion dollars annually.
In an attempt to save the coastal waters from oil drilling, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives from New England, including Collins and King, proposed a bill called the New England Coastline Protection Act. This bill would ban oil and gas extraction from any of New England’s coastal states.
On Monday, Jan. 22, a public hearing was planned to take place at the Augusta Civic Center, but was postponed due to the government shutdown. At this hearing, organized by the Department of the Interior, Maine citizens would have the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns about offshore drilling.
Lisa Pohlmann, the Executive Director of Natural Resources of Maine (NRCM), the leading nonprofit environmental advocacy program in the state, had planned to be actively involved at that meeting.
“Our role is to help our citizens’, our members’ and our advocates’ voices heard in whatever public policy debate that we think has something to do with protecting the environment,” Pohlmann said. Pohlmann and her team at NRCM are encouraging their members to attend the hearing in Augusta to weigh in on their opinions.
“We want to bring public attention to the amount of discontent that there is about this outlandish proposal to drill for oil off of the Maine coast,” she stated. The Department of the Interior has not released a new date for the meeting.
Sanford, who has been teaching environmental science at USM for the past 22 years, commented on the proposal to allow offshore drilling in Maine.
“There’s two big issues here, first is that there is not much around for offshore drilling in Maine, so there would need to be more exploration,” Sanford said. “Second, is that there is no where near the infrastructure [in Maine] to extract it, process it and distribute it. It would be a huge waste of energy and a horrible inefficiency.”
Sanford stated that on the Maine coast there are no big oil deposits, so there would need to be some exploration to figure out what kind of other mineral deposits or energy sources there are. In replace of offshore drilling, he recommends looking into offshore wind turbines.
“It would be far more feasible to put in offshore wind turbines to produce energy, as well as far less expensive” he said. Although Sanford’s idea would have less environmental impacts than offshore drilling, Governor LePage has recently placed a temporary ban on new wind energy projects in Maine, as stated by the Portland Press Herald.
In order for Trump’s administration proposal to go through, Sanford stated that they would have pass the standards set by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. This policy requires federal agencies to examine the environmental effects of their proposed actions, which takes around 18 months to complete, a timeline which would not coincide with the 2019 start time.
The biggest risk factors to offshore drilling, Pohlmann stated, are the effects on offshore fisheries and the tourism industry, which relies on coastal properties.
“We think this would be a terrible danger to our tourism and fishery economy,” Pohlmann stated. “It would be terrible for our coast which we rely so much on. If you’re drilling for oil, you’re going to be spilling oil.” The NCRM is currently contacting thousands of citizens across the state to encourage them to go their website to make their comments about the proposal.
“If we don’t yell and have thousands of people responding then they will feel like they can do whatever they want,” Pohlmann said.
Aside from the political opposition, Sanford doesn’t believe offshore drilling is possible in the state of Maine.
“We don’t have the resources in Maine for oil drilling, unlike a state like Texas who has been drilling for oil for a hundred years. It works better in the southern states and in the caribbean because there are actual known deposits there, as well as the infrastructure to do it.”
For those who want to add their comments and opinion about offshore drilling in Maine, Pohlmann encourages people to visit their website at https://www.nrcm.org.
Sarah Tewksbury, Editor-in-chief
Republican tax bill passes
The GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax bill was passed into law by Congress on Dec. 20 after hitting the floor in both the Senate and the House. There were no Democrats that backed the bill. A permanent tax reduction rate for the corporate tax rate was a key factor that garnered support among Republican leaders, who argue that this aspect of the bill will make corporations more competitive on a global stage. Opposers to the bill argued that little to no cuts were built into the legislation to aid middle and lower class families.
UN does not support a Jerusalem capital
In late December, the United Nations voted against President Trump’s open recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Making his declaration on Dec. 6 that the U.S. would consider the capital Jerusalem and relocate the U.S. embassy, Trump made an open political statement that the U.S. would no longer wait for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before choosing a position. 128 voting members of the UN cast their vote against Trump’s position, nine members voted against and 35 abstained from the vote.
Wildfires in California
At the close of December, California was plagued with six significant wildfires that swept over the southern half of the state. The intensity of the fires led Governor Jerry Brown and President Trump to declare California to be in a state of emergency. An unusually dry rain season, combined with dry vegetation caused the wildfires to spread rapidly. One civilian death and one firefighter death were reported during the height of California’s 2017 wildfire season.
Kim Jong Un’s Nuclear Threats
Late in the evening on Jan. 2, President Trump tweeted in response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s boasts about the country’s nuclear capabilities being at the ready to be fired with a button. Trump responded with a tweet declaring, “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” The impact of the boastful match between the nation’s two leaders caused public outcry.
North Korea to participate in Winter Olympics
North Korea has agreed to send a team of athletes to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea. Hoping to promote peace and inspire more positive relations between the two nations, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un openly urged delegates at negotiation talks in the beginning of January to allow collaboration between the countries, in the spirit of the Olympic games.
Tide pod challenge sweeps across U.S.
A new social media inspired challenge has garnered support among middle school and high school aged students. The fad encourages participants with popping a Tide pod, a water soluble pouch filled with condensed laundry detergent, between their teeth and either spitting out or consuming the contents. Since the challenge became popular, there have been over forty cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers where participants were severely or significantly medically impacted by the consumption of the Tide pod.
Thirteen children found captive in their own home
A couple from California was charged with torture and child endangerment after their thirteen children were found emaciated and being held in captivity. Living in inhumane conditions, the children were rescued and removed from their situation after a 17-year old sibling was able to escape and seek help. The children have been taken to Corona Regional Medical Center where they are being treated for malnutrition.
Maine town manager fired for views on white supremacy
In late January, a town manager from Jackman, Maine was fired for openly displaying views about white identity. Former town manager Thomas Kawczynski expressed his views online that “voluntary segregation would improve happiness for all.” Kawczynski’s comments were not limited to the topic of white nationalism. He also included anti-Islamic statements to his rhetoric. To date, Kawczynski has been effectively removed from office and has been paid a $30,000 settlement by the town of Jackman in order to avoid legal action.
Former U.S. Olympic Gymnastics doctor sentenced for sexual abuse
After a seven day hearing that included over 150 speakers, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting, harassing and abusing women and girls, including members of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Nassar was the doctor for the gymnastics team and a faculty member at Michigan State University. To date, he has been sentenced for child pornography charges and sexual assault charges. This is reportedly one of the largest sexual abuse cases in athletic history.
Cape Town faces water shutoff
For months, Cape Town, South Africa has been dealing with a decline in water supply. Water restrictions imposed by government officials have scheduled out the shutoff of the water supply. As time passes between now and April 12, the day being called “Day Zero” when the water will be turned off, the government will decrease the allowed liters of water to be used by residents daily until it reaches zero. On Feb. 1, residents will be charged with decreasing water consumption from 87 liters a day to 50 liters a day.
High school shooting leaves two dead
Western Kentucky saw a fatal high school shooting on Jan. 24 where two students were killed and eighteen students and faculty were injured. The fifteen year old shooter whose name has not been released was arrested and will face a grand jury Feb. 13. The male shooter will be charged as an adult.